Smoked Venison Chilli

served with lime and avocado

We were given some local Muntjac venison, which we decided to turn into chilli on a dark December Sunday night. We’d slow cooked it for 8 hours on the barbecue the day before for a Christmas party and had one of the haunches leftover, which leant itself perfectly to a chilli con carne, ensuring nothing was wasted. I decided to document our recipe here because it turned out to be utterly delicious, and it’s a great option if you’re cooking for a larger group of people. Packed with spicy, smoky, wintry flavours, this is perfect for an informal New Year’s Eve dinner.

ALTERNATIVE VERSION: the slow cooking and smoking process added some fantastic flavours to the dish but if you don’t want to go to the trouble of barbecuing and smoking your meat beforehand, you can use raw minced venison instead (as you would with the classic beef version). For this simplified version, simply add your minced venison when you add the garlic and brown it off over a high heat for a few minutes until it is no longer pink, before continuing with the recipe as below. You don’t need the venison rub if you’re doing it this way either, so omit that part of the recipe too.

For those of you who want to smoke and barbecue the meat first, Joe prepared the barbecue using oak chips that had been steeped in water for 24 hours beforehand, piled on top of the hot coals for extra flavour (he recommends the Pitt Cue Co book for detailed information and instructions on how to smoke meat). For a brief summary of our process, the day before we made the chilli we barbecued the meat using a ceramic barbecue (apparently a Weber also works well). Joe placed a heat proof tin of water on the shelf in the barbecue to create a moist cooking environment with steam, before adding the meat to the shelf. We slow-cooked it in the barbecue for 8 hours, checking it from time to time, until the meat was cooked through and easy to shred off the bone. It gave the venison a melt-in-the-mouth texture that could be pulled apart with a fork, and a woody, smoked flavour.

Serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS

  • FOR THE VENISON RUB
  • 3-4 tsp sea salt
  • 2½ tbsp dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • generous grating of pink peppercorns
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • FOR THE VENISON CHILLI
  • 1kg barbecued diced venison haunch (or 1kg raw minced venison for the alternative version)
  • olive oil, for frying
  • 2 white onions, chopped
  • 1 small head of garlic, cloves peeled and finely chopped or crushed
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 100ml red wine
  • 350ml beef (or venison) stock
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 400g kidney beans, drained and washed
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • salt and black pepper, to season
  • TO SERVE
  • avocado, lime, sour cream (or natural yoghurt), boiled rice, fresh coriander and a crispy green salad

METHOD

TO MAKE THE VENISON RUB (BARBECUE VERSION)

Blitz all the ingredients for the rub in a spice grinder (you can use a pestle and mortar if you don’t have one of these, it just requires a bit more muscle power and time! Stir the flour through at the very end if so). Rub the spice mix evenly over the haunch.

BBQ OPTION: set your barbecue up for smoking. When the coals are at an even temperature and a steady heat of roughly 110°C, place your venison haunch on the barbecue and close the lid. Slow cook your meat for 8 hours, checking on the barbecue regularly to top up the coals and soaked oak chips as required in order to maintain a consistent temperature. When the meat is cooked all the way through, remove from the barbecue and allow it to cool before stripping it off the bone and into chunks, ready to be added to the chilli.

TO MAKE THE CHILLI

Heat a glug of oil in a large non-stick pan over a medium heat. Fry the onions for 5 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and fry for a further couple of minutes, taking care that it doesn’t catch (for the alternative version, if you’re skipping the barbecue and using raw minced venison, add it to the pan now and brown it off. You may need to do this in batches to ensure it browns rather than steaming, unless you have a large pan that it will all fit in comfortably).

Add the chilli, coriander and cumin and stir for another minute or two until the mixture is coated in spices.

Add the wine and stir, followed by the cooked venison chunks (for the barbecued version), the stock, tomatoes, beans, tomato purée, bay leaves, sugar and oregano. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour with a lid on the pan, stirring regularly to ensure it doesn’t catch, and to break up the venison chunks. When it is ready, check the flavouring and season with salt and pepper. Check the meat is tender and has been simmered for long enough, and leave it to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with boiled rice, fresh avocado mashed with lime, coriander, and sour cream.

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