venison terrine
Venison terrine with prunes, orange, juniper and thyme

Free-roaming deer enjoy a natural, wholesome diet and their meat is healthy, lean and full of flavour. Its versatility in the kitchen never fails to amaze me, and the things I’m lucky enough to make with it always impress. If you haven’t tried wild venison before, you’re missing out. It’s a red meat, like beef, and can be treated in a similar way. Chargrilled venison steak with chips is one of my favourite weekend suppers, and the minced meat from the shoulder is a great alternative to beef in a cottage pie (perhaps that should be stalker’s pie?). To find wild venison, first make some enquiries with your local butcher. If they don’t stock it already they should be able to order it in for you

Serves 
8 - 10
Ingredients 

100g stoned prunes

2 tbsp brandy

350g unsmoked streaky bacon

150g venison liver cubed – or use pig’s or chicken liver

250g pork belly, rind removed, cubed

1⁄2 medium onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, grated

Grated zest 1⁄4 orange

3 juniper berries, finely chopped

3 bay leaves, very finely chopped

3-4 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves chopped

1 medium free-range egg

50g fresh breadcrumbs

200g venison loin (off the bone)

YOU’LL ALSO NEED...

1 litre loaf tin or cast-iron terrine

Method 

Youll need 1 litre loaf tin or cast-iron terrine

Put the prunes in a small bowl with the brandy and leave to plump up for several hours or overnight (see Make Ahead).

Chop half the bacon and put in a bowl with the liver and pork belly. Add the onion, garlic, zest, juniper berries and chopped herbs, then mix well. Pass through a mincer or whizz in a processor to give a coarse, even mixture. Return to the bowl. Mix in the egg and breadcrumbs, then season with salt and black pepper.

Cut the venison loin lengthways into strips 3-4cm thick. Stretch out the remaining bacon using the back of a knife to make it as long/wide as possible. Line the loaf tin or terrine with cling film leaving a 10cm overhang all around, then use the stretched bacon rashers to line the terrine so they overhang the sides by about 6cm.

Heat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/gas 31⁄2. Fill the terrine with a third of the minced meat mix. Lay half the venison strips along its length and arrange half the prunes around them, as evenly as you can. Add another third of the meat mixture, pressing it down into place to cover the venison and prunes, then arrange another layer of the remaining venison and prunes in the same way. Cover with the remaining meat mixture, pressing it down to level.

Fold the overhanging bacon to cover and fold the cling film over the top, then press down to enclose. Put the lid on the terrine (or use foil to cover tightly). Fill a deep roasting tin with hot water and lower in the terrine; the water should come two-thirds of the way up the sides of the terrine. Cook in the oven for 1 hour 20 minutes.

Once cooked, remove the terrine from the oven and lift it out of the water. Leave to cool to room temperature, then chill. Use weights to press the terrine overnight this will give it a better texture. Take the terrine out the fridge at least 30 minutes before eating. Serve in slices with toast and hedgerow jelly or chutney.