‘The clean, crisp taste of juniper berries is unmistakable and, thanks to their natural affinity with game meats, they add interesting notes and a unique flavour to this recipe. Despite its impressive appearance, this venison Wellington is surprisingly easy to prepare and it can be made ahead, which makes it the perfect dinner-party dish’

Venison Wellington with juniper berries

Serves 6

Ingredients

800g venison fillet
(or fillet of beef)
Olive oil
3 shallots
250g chestnut mushrooms
3 cloves garlic
100ml sloe gin
1tbspn juniper berries
4 sprigs of thyme
6 slices Parma ham
2tbspn wholegrain mustard
1 sheet (320g) pre-rolled
puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
25g butter
1tbspn plain flour
300ml beef stock
50ml sloe gin
1tspn wholegrain mustard
2tspn redcurrant jelly

Method

Cover the venison fillet with olive oil and seasoning. Sear the meat in a large frying pan on all sides and on the ends to seal it. Remove it from the pan and place to one side. Dice the shallots, mushrooms and garlic very finely and, using the same pan, fry them in a splash of olive oil. Pour the sloe gin over them and add the juniper berries (lightly crush them if using dried) and sprigs of thyme. Fry until the liquid has been almost completely absorbed, for about 10 minutes.

Lay out a large piece of clingfilm. Arrange three slices of Parma ham so that the longer sides overlap and then repeat with another three beside them. Spoon half of the mushroom mixture down the centre where the Parma ham rows meet. Brush the mustard all over the venison, then place the fillet onto the mushrooms. Spread the rest of the mushroom mixture on top of the meat and down the sides.

Preheat your oven to 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4. Using the clingfilm, lift it up at one end so that the Parma ham covers one side of the meat. Keep rolling over, tucking it in under itself as you go until the venison is entirely wrapped in the Parma ham and you have what resembles a sausage. Twist the ends of the clingfilm tightly and then refrigerate for a least half an hour (or up to 24 hours).

Unroll your puff pastry and brush it with beaten egg. Take the meat from the refrigerator, remove it from the clingfilm and place it at one end. Pull the pastry over the meat so that it’s completely enclosed. Brush the outside with beaten egg and place on a roasting dish and put it in the oven for about 30 minutes for a medium and pink centre. Adjust the time if you prefer it rare or well done.

While the Wellington is cooking, take a small saucepan and add the butter and plain flour. Mix until you have a roux. Add the beef stock, sloe gin, wholegrain mustard and the redcurrant jelly. Simmer until reduced and season to taste.

Remove the venison from the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. Cut into slices and serve drizzled with the sauce and, I suggest, accompanied by braised red cabbage and dauphinoise potatoes. A perfect taste of autumn.

* Follow Country Life magazine on Twitter

More ways with juniper berries

Scandinavian-style chicken with juniper berries
Place four chicken breasts, with skin on, in a roasting dish that’s greased with olive oil. Slash lines across each chicken breast, sprinkle 1tbspn crushed juniper berries and the leaves from two sprigs of rosemary over them and put three crushed cloves of garlic in the dish. Roast in medium heat for 30 minutes before pouring 500ml chicken stock and a splash of single cream over them and seasoning. Return to the oven for 10 minutes and serve with brown rice.

Juniper-berry poached pears with orange cream
Peel four pears and place them in a saucepan with a cup of white wine, half a cup of orange juice, 1tbspn crushed juniper berries, a cinnamon stick, a quarter of a cup of sugar and 1tbspn vanilla-bean paste. Simmer until the pears are tender. Whip the cream and add icing sugar and the zest of an orange. Serve the pears on top of the cream.

Juniper-berry tea
Infuse 1tbspn lightly crushed juniper berries in a mug of boiling water for a few minutes. Add a squeeze of lemon and drink.

* Give Country Life for Christmas and save up to 40% on a subscription