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Venison chilli with chocolate

Last Friday I popped down to the village butchers on the way back from the school run for some chuck steak to make my Texan-style slow cooked chilli. They had some gorgeous looking venison in, so I decided to do a chilli using using Bambi instead of Daisy (sorry veggies!). I pretty much stuck to the old recipe but I reduced the liquid (as I cooked it on the stove top which somehow retains more liquid, plus it makes it more unctuous) and changed a couple of other minor things. Oh but one pretty huge addition is the chocolate. Yeah, I know, pur-retty crazy! I’d never done the whole chocolate and venison thing before, and I definitely was a little apprehensive, but it was delicious.

Chocolate just works so well with venison. But also it also adds interest, gloss and a richness to a chilli – the smokiness of the beer, spices and chilli paste (which this time I made with smoked chipotles) combined with sweet yet bitter chocolate… YUM.

This would be a cracking dish to do if friends were coming round to eat. Just chuck in a few jackets to slow bake in the oven, pop some sour cream and coriander on top (plus extra chilli paste for grown ups) and you’ve got a very interesting and impressive dinner right there (and most importantly, one that you can easily make ahead).

It’s a great time to try it, as venison is in season right now. Surprisingly it’s fairly inexpensive too – about the same as beef or lamb at my butchers, as well as being very lean and healthy. I made loads, so feel free to halve proportions. Do use a nice beer, as it makes a difference. I poured in my husband’s Jaipur, which he was quite annoyed about. If you don’t want any heat in the chilli (for kids) then either make the paste and add (a little) to the adult’s portions just before serving, or just don’t bother with it.

Serves: about 8 adults
Prep time: 1/2 hour
Cook time: 3 hours
Total time: 3 1/2 hours

1kg venison, cut into bit size chunks
2 onions, diced
2 carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons of cinnamon (plus a cinnamon stick – optional)
2 teaspoons of cumin (ground or seeds)
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika (normal is fine if you can’t get smoked)
1 teaspoon of homemade chilli paste (see below)
500ml of good quality beer
250ml beef stock
2 tins of kidney beans, drained
60g dark chocolate (I used 85% Lindt), broken up roughly
Salt and pepper
Vegetable or olive oil

For the chilli paste:
A few dried chillis (I used smoke chipotles, but Nora pepper are good, or just dried red chillis)
Boiling water, to cover

To serve: 
Sour cream
Baked potatoes


  1. Heat some oil in a heavy bottom casserole pan until smoking hot. Add your meat in batches and brown until there is a lot of colour on them. Set aside. Don’t overcrowd the pan as they will boil, and if that happens you’ll get liquid instead of caramelised flavour. 
  2. Whilst the meat is browning, cover the dried chillis in boiling water to reconstitute them. Do this for about 10-15 minutes until they are soft, then drain off most of the water and whizz in a processor to make a paste. 
  3. Once you’ve finished browning the meat (which has been set to one side), turn the heat down and splash a tablespoon more oil in the pan and soften the carrots, onions, garlic in the pan – soften them for about 15 minutes. 
  4. Add a teaspoon of chilli paste (this amount gives a nice background heat that our kids could manage  add more if you like it hot) and the spices. Return the meat to the pan. Cook the paste and spices out for a few minutes.
  5. Pour in beer and stock, tip in the kidney beans and bring to boil. Now turn down heat to a simmer and slow cook for 2 hours. 
  6. Once 2 hours is up, take the lid off and cook for another hour, uncovered (to reduce the liquid).
  7. For the last 15 minutes or so, turn up the heat to bubble away and reduce the sauce – last of all, add the chocolate. You’ll notice the sauce goes nicely glossy. Season to taste. Serve with hot jackets, a dollop of sour cream, some more paste on top for grown ups and plenty of coriander. (I don’t serve grated cheese with this chilli as the thought of cheddar and chocolate just isn’t pleasant!)


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