When the idea for this recipe came about, I was eating a regular cottage pie I’d just made while watching a history documentary about how the Normans turned most of England into royal forests in order to increase deer and wild boar numbers for hunting purposes. And all I could think of was how good this cottage pie could be with venison.
For those of you who have never had venison, it’s basically beef’s gamey, leaner and more sustainable cousin. It has much more protein and a higher iron content than beef (hence that gamey flavor) and is lower in fat than chicken, the dieters’ perennial favourite. And because deer are wild animals, there’s no possibility you’ll be eating an intensively reared animal.
Due to venison being so lean it’s best cooked either hot and fast or low and slow, otherwise it does get tough. In this recipe I’ve used venison mince which limits the need to worry about toughness but nonetheless I recommend that you simmer the ragu on low for a good 45 minutes, preferably longer, to allow the flavours to really develop.
The ragu recipe is pretty much a straight forward cottage pie recipe, I’ve just substituted the beef mince with venison mince. I’ve been more liberal with the black pepper which, being gamey, venison works particularly well with. And I’ve made sure to use quite a full bodied red wine to add further depth of flavour.
For mash potatoes I generally like to use King Edwards, their floury texture makes them perfect for mashing. When I make pie toppings out of mash I prefer it not to be a perfectly smooth puree, as little bits of imperfectly mashed potato sticking out of the surface of a pie will crisp up beautifully in the oven, giving added texture and interest.
This is a great dish all round, especially when it’s a bit cold outside. It’s also perfect as an introduction to venison if you’ve never had it before, or are trying to introduce it to your children.
I recommend starting the mash after you’ve made the ragu. Letting the ragu cool in the oven dish makes spreading the mash easier as the ragu becomes a little thicker as it cools.
This venison cottage pie is a rich hearty winter warmer. You can easily substitute the venison for ground beef for a more traditional cottage pie.
- Prep Time15 min
- Cook Time1 hr 30 min
- Total Time1 hr 45 min
- Serving Size4
For the Ragu
- 1 Large Onion
- 2 Medium Carrots (Diced)
- 2 Celery Stalks (Diced)
- 3 Garlic Cloves (Minced)
- 1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
- 500g Venison Mince
- 1 1/2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
- 1 Tsp Mustard Powder
- 2 Tbsp Flour
- 250 ml Red Wine
- 500ml Beef Stock
- 1 Can Chopped Tomatoes
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 3-4 Sprigs Thyme
- 1/2 Star Anise
- Salt and Pepper
For the Mash
- 1 kg King Edward Potatoes
- 40g Butter
- 100 ml Milk
- 50 g Grated Cheddar
- Salt and Pepper
- Dice the onions, celery and carrots.
- Heat a large casserole over medium high heat and add a the oil.
- Break the venison mince into small pieces and add to the casserole, laving space between the pieces. Do not over crowd the pan. Brown the meat all over You may need to do this in two batches. Once the meat begins to brown season with salt and pepper.
- When the venison is browned remove and add the vegetables and saute gently over medium heat. Once the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes add the garlic. Cook for another minute.
- Return the venison and stir in the tomato paste, making sure all the meet and vegetables are well coated. Cook for another 5 minutes stirring regularly.
- Sprinkle the flour and mustard powder over the meat and stir then add the wine.
- Let the wine reduce until there is hardly any liquid left. Once the wine has reduce add the beef stock, chopped tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme and star anise, and bring to the boil.
- Once it starts to boil lower the temperature and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 45 mins stirring occasionally until you have a rich thick ragu. Making sure to taste and season with salt and pepper accordingly.
- Peel and dice the potatoes.
- Place the diced potatoes in a large enough pot and cover with water.
- Add a large pinch of salt and place over a high heat.
- When the water begins to boil lower the heat to a simmer and cook for a further 1o minutes or until the potatoes are break apart when a fork is inserted.
- Drain and let stand for a few minutes to let the excess moister steam away.
- Using either a ricer or a potato masher, mash the potatoes and add the butter, milk and grated cheese.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Putting it all Together
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/160 C Fan/ Gas Mark 4
- In a deep oven dish (26 CM) place the ragu.
- Using a serving spoon, place large spoonfulls of mash over the ragu next to each other to cover the dish.
- Either with a palette knife or the back of the spoon evenly spread the mash to close any gaps.
- Using a fork draw lines on the mash to create an uneven surface for added crunch.
- Place in the oven for 45 mins.
- Leave to rest for 30 – 45 mins.