Chocolate Stout Pulled Venison

I love autumn - every little colourful part of it. Of all the seasonal changes, summer into autumn is the one that really gets me excited. From chunky knits to the first log fire; blackberry and rosehip picking, apples and pears, pumpkins and game season. It's simple impossible not to fall in love with it. And that's something coming from someone who feels the cold in the height of summer!

I love autumn – every little colourful part of it. Of all the seasonal changes, summer into autumn is the one that really gets me excited. From chunky knits to the first log fire; blackberry and rosehip picking, apples and pears, pumpkins and game season. It’s simple impossible not to fall in love with it. And that’s something coming from someone who feels the cold in the height of summer!

If you were to ask me what my favourite bit about autumn is, I’d struggle with an answer for a moment or two and then relent: game season, always game season!

In Ireland, technically there isn’t one defined game season as such as some wild meats and fish are accessible at varying times of the year. But generally, we are talking the period of time from about October to March, or when the spring born young are fully raised or fledged and are making their own way in the wilderness. I have many favourite game foods, but nothing stirs the feral senses quite the way venison does – the meat of Kings: antlers, mishty mountainsides, heather and tartan (it’s the Scots in me – I can’t help it).

Venison farms have been cropping up around Ireland for the last number of years, some for much longer and produce award winning wild and semi-wild game meats (Ballinwillin in Mitchelstown for example). This does mean that Venison is available all year round now, should you wish. But there is something about the annual wait that speaks deeply to me.

We are all suffering from a lack of patience, brought on by greater accessibility to whatever our hearts could possibly desire, including our hearts desire if your into that sort of thing. The slow food movement is part of reintroducing us to the benefits, for taste and health, of eating seasonally, locally and growing or raising our food for longer preferably organically and antibiotic free. I feel there is another blog post / article to come on that, but for now I want to remain firmly fixed on the end point to this blog post: you, dear reader, getting your laughing gear around my chocolate stout pulled venison buns (so to speak).

Whilst everyone else has been eating pulled pork, lamb and beef until I wonder how there are any animals left on our island, I hatched a plan. Surely, you can pull any meat (right, if anyone is reading this with a filthy mind I can only apologise!), including venison. I have cooked with this king of meats for a good few years now and have played with a number of different complementary flavours. But the best of all is chocolate – the darker the better.

Down Kinsale way, Blacks Brewery brews a chocolate stout made using the leftover cocoa bean husks from Clonakilty Chocolate – a Fairtrade bean-to-bar chocolate maker in West Cork headed up by my friend Allison Roberts. Her chocolate, with its lack of overpowering sweetness, the most considered approach to her raw ingredients and its innate nutritional goodness, makes it a particularly good partner for venison.

The venison I have used here is wild, so it will have a naturally stronger flavour – farmed will be less pungent, but tomaytoes/tomatoes, right? The haunch has been in the deep freeze since last game season, carefully wrapped and protected. After slow defrosting in the fridge, I was delighted to see that the meat was perfect: not a spot of frost burn, looking amazing and smelling fresh as a daisy.

Below then is my proposition to you. This is the only pulled-anything you need to be consuming this coming game season, and don’t stimp on the sides either. A sweet brioche bun is vital – you need the sweetness from the bread for the perfect balance. Your slaw should be crispy and if you really can’t find or be bothered to purchase a bottle of the Damson Shrub for the slaw dressing, then get a good quality ACV and add a pinch of sugar to compensate.

As a point of note, I posted this picture up on my Instagram account a couple of weeks ago and asked if anyone could identify what the meat I used was. The closest anyone got to using their imagination was Buffalo. No-one gave venison a thought…

It’s so ridiculously easy to make: it just needs time – quite a bit of time, to get it perfect, but happily you don’t need to tend it!

And what to drink with it? Either a bottle of red with massively obvious notes of chocolate or, of course, crack open a bottle of nicely chilled World’s End Chocolate Vanilla Imperial Stout from Blacks of Kinsale.

Ingredients (will serve many, many delighted people!):

For the pulled venison

  • 1 x Venison Haunch
  • 2 x sprigs of Rosemary
  • 2 x fat cloves of garlic (smoked preferably)
  • Sea salt, black pepper
  • 1 x bottle of Chocolate Stout (I’m advocating World’s End by Blacks of Kinsale, but anyone is good)
  • 4 x squares of intense dark chocolate. I used Clonakilty Chocolate “Dark Decadent” 75%.

For the Slaw & Accompaniments:

  • Finely sliced red cabbage
  • 1 x Kohlrabi, spiralised
  • 5 x red radishes, finely sliced
  • 2 x spring onion, sliced finely on the round
  • 2 x tblsp of crème fraiche
  • 1 x tblsp of The Wild Irish Foragers & Preservers Damson Shrub (or replace with ACV & a pinch of sugar)
  • 1 x Brioche bun, toasted
  • Fresh peppery rocket leaves
  • Tilda Wild & Basmati rice mix
  • Fresh parsley, roughly chopped


  • In a pestle and mortar, crush together the rosemary, smoked garlic and sea salt into a paste. Add some excellent quality EVO to loosen into a spreadable mixture.
  • Pat dry the venison and place it into a deep sided roasting tin. Massage the mixture all over the meat well. Cover with foil and place in the fridge to marinade overnight – 24 hours.
  • The following day, heat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius.
  • Take the venison from the fridge, uncover and pour in the contents of the chocolate stout over. Drizzle a little more EVO, recover and place in the oven to cook really slowly for 4-6 hours (depending on the size of the haunch).
  • Periodically, baste the venison with the chocolate stout, and half way through turn it so the top side gets to sit in the chocolate stout for the remaining cooking time. Keep it covered.
  • About 30 minutes before it is completely done (you will know because the meat will be falling away in those nice soft strips), add in the squares of chocolate. Let them melt, then re-baste the meat, recover and pop it back in for the last few minutes.
  • When cooked, take out the venison from the oven and leave it stove-top to cool just enough to handle.
  • Meanwhile, make your slaw.
  • Finely chop the red cabbage; finely slice the radish and spring onions and spiralise the kohlrabi. Chop up a little of the parsely too. Place in a bowl and set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the crème fraiche with some sea salt and black pepper. Add in the Damson shrub and mix to a consistency that is loose enough to coat the vegetables but not watery. If you the consistency isn’t right, add a little drop of water rather than more of the damson shrub.
  • Cook the rice according to the instructions on the packet. When cooked, drain and rinse under a tap to stop the rice cooking and to ensure a fluffy texture. Season with a little salt, add in the parsley and a drizzle of EVO. Mix everything through thoroughly.
  • Mix everything together well so that the slaw is well coated. Check for seasoning and adjust.
  • Return to the venison. Take it out of its chocolate bath and begin to shred it – either using your hands or with two forks. Place it in a bowl and a little at a time, incorporate some of the cooking liquor over the venison so it is coated and shimmery, but not too wet.
  • Toast your brioche bun, butter it.
  • Build your bun up by layering first the peppery rocket, then a generous handful of the venison. Top with the slaw, and finally the toasted bun top. Serve with a portion of the rice.
  • Tuck in my friends, tuck in – and … ENJOY!

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