Venison shanks with juniper berries

Photographer: Adam
serves 4

I love slow-cooked meat, casseroles, pork belly, and especially shanks on a cold winter night. It’s the ideal food to warm the soul and give you sustenance during the cold and flu season. The other great thing is that once you’ve got them into the oven you can sit back and relax in front of the fire with a wine knowing all the while that a delicious hearty meal will be ready come tea time.

Usually I go for lamb shanks but I decided to mix things up this time and use venison for its gamey flavour. You can always use lamb but you might want to double the amount of shanks you use as the venison is larger.

Juniper berries (click here for more information) add an interesting zing to the flavour; traditionally they are used to produce gin so expect some gin-like flavours. They have a tendency to get bitter so either add in the flavour sachet midway through the braising or take it out midway. If you find the cooking liquor has taken on some bitterness, add in some brown sugar; a teaspoon of it usually does the trick.

It goes great with pumpkin chilli mash (my next post)


4 venison short shanks (~500g each)
2 tbsp olive oil
50g butter
3 onions (peeled and roughly chopped)
4 carrots (peeled and roughly chopped)
4 shallots (peeled and sliced)
6 whole garlic cloves, peeled and squashed to release flavour
100g tomato paste
400ml red wine
1 L beef/brown stock
200ml fortified wine or just use extra red wine
2 tbsp juniper berries*
10 thyme stalks, with leaves*
6 parsley stalks (no leaves)*
1 tsp rock salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Half of the cooking liquor from the shanks
400ml of fortified wine
1 tsp juniper berries
5 shallots thinly sliced
250ml brown stock
Salt, pepper


1. Preheat oven to 160ºC on a bake function.
2. Season shanks with salt and pepper, let sit for 2 min. Bring oil to heat in roast dish on cooktop (this can also be done in a pan and transferred to the roast dish if more appropriate). When hot place in shanks. Turn once golden brown and ensure all sides are browned evenly; this will probably take around 15 min. Towards the end add in butter which will add extra flavour. It is important to brown the meat properly as it will provide good colour and flavour to the end result and also ensure that the meat retains its moisture during the cooking process.
3. Remove meat from dish and set aside. Immediately add in vegetables and brown for 3-5 min. Once well browned add in tomato paste and pince, which literally means burn, for about 2-3min. Really what we are trying to achieve is caramelization of the sugars in the paste which will add additional flavour and colour to the sauce and meat. .
4. Immediately add in both wines and let reduce for 5 min: this deglazes the pan, capturing all of the flavour that has been produced during the frying process. Add the meat back in and add stock, juniper berries, thyme, parsley stalks*, salt and pepper, then bring to the boil. Taste, add additional seasoning if required.
5. Cover with wet, scrunched baking paper and then tin foil, place in preheated oven and cook for 2 ½ – 3 hours, the longer the better; ideally, you should be able to eat the meat with a spoon. Check the meat throughout the cook time: probably once after the first hour and then every half hour after that and spoon the cooking liquid over shanks. If they appear dry, turn them over. The flavour sachet only needs to be in for half of the cooking time.

1. Fry off the shallots in the oil on a high heat in a medium-sized pan until translucent, then deglaze with the wine.
2. Add in cooking liquor, stock and juniper berries*. Reduce until thick and syrupy (roughly half the original volume)
3. Season to taste with salt and pepper

Tips and tricks
* Juniper berries are used for both the shanks and jus. With the shanks, they are used in combination with thyme and parsley stalks. To avoid having to pick them out at the end, make a little flavour sachet by tying them up in muslin or cheesecloth. It is important to use only these berries as other similar variants are extremely poisonous. It’s best to use dried berries these can be obtained from specialised spice stores.