Greatest Recipes Ever: venison with chocolate

‘Willie and I did a talk together at last year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival, and we spent an hour gassing about chillies and chocolate. It seems we have a shared passion or two! Venison and chocolate also make a magic flavour combination’

Thomasina Miers

Saddle of roe deer with chocolate gravy and spiced red cabbage

Extract from Willie Harcourt-Cooze’s

Chocolate Bible, Published in 2010 by Hodder & Stoughton

Serves 6

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4-5tbsp olive oil

Small bunch of fresh thyme, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, sliced

Pinch of coarsely ground black pepper

2kg saddle of roe deer (ask your butcher to bone out the two fillets of meat from the saddle, giving you all the bones and sinews)

20g butter

For the gravy

2 onions, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 ripe tomato, roughly chopped
2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
3 bay leaves
8-10 sprigs fresh thyme
4 juniper berries
6 black peppercorns
350ml red wine
10g Venezuelan Hacienda Las Trincheras 100% Pure Cacao
1-2tbsp quince or redcurrant jelly
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the red cabbage

1tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion, finely sliced
1tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
1 small red cabbage, sliced
2 Cox’s apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1tbsp Cocoa Nib Balsamic Vinegar, or good-quality balsamic vinegar
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Zest of half an orange
Juice of one orange


Preheat the oven to 190˚C. Place the olive oil, thyme, garlic and black pepper in a large dish, add the two fillets of roe-deer meat and turn until well coated in the olive oil and herb mixture. Cover and leave to marinate for at least 2 hours, or, preferably, overnight in the fridge.

To make the gravy, put the onions, carrots, tomato and celery on a baking tray with the reserved bones and sinews from the meat, and roast in the hot oven for about 1 hour, turning occasionally, until everything is well browned. Tip into a large pan, along with the bay leaves, thyme sprigs, juniper berries, peppercorns and red wine.

Add enough water to cover and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Lower the heat and leave to simmer very gently for 3-4 hours.

Strain though a sieve into a clean pan, return to the heat and continue to simmer until reduced to about 450ml liquid. Stir in the cacao and jelly until melted and well mixed in. Season to taste and, if the gravy is too thin, cook a little longer until it thickens slightly. Set aside until ready to serve.

Heat the olive oil for the red cabbage in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and the thyme and fry for 3-4 minutes, or until soft. Stir in the cabbage and apples, then add the vinegar, cinnamon and orange zest and juice. Cover the pan, lower the heat and cook very slowly for about
30 minutes, or until the cabbage is tender, stirring occasionally. Set aside until ready to serve.

About an hour before serving, preheat the oven to 190˚C. To cook the meat, melt the butter in a roasting tin over a medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the meat, turning several times to brown lightly on all sides. Place in the hot oven and cook for about 6 minutes for very rare meat, or 8 minutes for medium-rare meat. Don’t overcook, or the meat will be dry and leathery.

Transfer the meat to a warm dish, cover loosely with foil and leave to rest in a warm place for 10 minutes while you reheat the red cabbage and gravy.

To serve, cut the meat into thick slices and divide between six warm serving plates. Place a couple of spoonfuls of red cabbage on each place and pour some gravy around the meat.