Venison & bacon stew with orange & bay

At River Cottage I'd always cook venison throughout the winter months. One of my favourite ways to eat it is as a tasty carpaccio. The loin is seared in a hot pan for a few seconds before being sliced and served more or less raw, with flaky salt, lemon juice, olive oil and capers. It’s exquisite, refined and delicate. At the other end of the culinary spectrum, but no less delicious, would be my venison stew scented with orange and bay. It’s a foil to the darker days of winter, a fuel. 

6 - 8

A 500g piece of pancetta or bacon cut into 3-4cm cubes

650g of venison shoulder, cubed

2 onions, sliced                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

5 bay leaves

6-8 juniper berries, lightly bashed

The pared zest of one orange

2 sprigs of thyme

100g plain seasoned flour

500ml ale

Up to 300ml stock or water

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and Black pepper 


Place a large casserole dish on a medium heat. Add a dash of olive oil followed by the sliced onions, the garlic, bay, juniper berries, orange zest and thyme. Sweat the onions, stirring for 8-10 mins. Meanwhile heat a dash of olive oil in a heavy frying pan. Gently fry the cubed bacon until it’s golden and the fat is well rendered. Transfer to the casserole dish, but leave the pan on the heat. Toss the venison pieces in the seasoned flour and then fry in the same pan, in batches, transferring them to the casserole dish as soon as they’re well coloured. Stir everything once or twice then pour over the ale. Add enough water or stock to cover by a good couple of centimetres. Season with pepper, but not salt as the bacon will be quite salty. Bring to the simmer and cook, with a lid set just ajar, at a very low simmer for 2-3 hours, until the meat is tender. You can cook it in a low oven (about 120°C, gas 1), with a lid on, if you like. Taste the stew and adjust the seasoning before serving.