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Minced venison meatballs with mint and Manchego recipe

Rose Prince combines minced venison with mint and Manchego cheese, served with sofrito vegetables in broth for a Spanish twist on meatballs. Prep time 30 minutes. Cooking time 40 minutes. Serves four.

braised minced venison meatballs

Venison Meat Balls with Braised Butterbeans

Braised minced venison meatballs, Spanish style with butter beans, green peppers and garlic broth


  • 500g venison mince
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 100g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 6 thin slices smoked streaky bacon, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp manchego cheese, grated
  • 2 tsp fresh mint, chopped
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • large pinch salt
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 125ml dry sherry
  • 250ml stock
  • 750g butter or white beans, drained
  • Small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to season


  1. Put the venison mince in a bowl with the egg, breadcrumbs, bacon, cheese, mint and seasoning. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon, then form into 12 oval patties using your hands. This makes three per person.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium-high heat, then quickly brown the meatballs on all sides. They do not need to be cooked all the way through, so only cook them for about 5 minutes, turning regularly. Remove them from the pan, placing them on a plate. Set to one side while you prepare the broth base.
  3. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a pan or casserole dish. Add the garlic, onion and green pepper. Turn the heat down low, and slowly fry until the onion shrinks and the peppers are soft — the Spanish term for this is sofrito. This should take 10 to 15 minutes. It is important that the vegetables become sweet and lightly golden without too much heat, and must not burn.
  4. Add the sherry, bring to the boil and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and cook for a further 3 minutes. Add the meatballs, bring back to the boil, turn down the heat and cook for 15 minutes, simmering so that the liquid does not evaporate. Finally, add the beans, bring back to the boil and cook for another 10 minutes.
  5. Add the parsley, then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serve in bowls with large chunks of hot garlic bread.

More thoughts on meatballs

I have run the international gamut of meatballs. There are the obvious Italian types that are made with beef or veal, and then the Swedish version, served in a slightly strange sour cream sauce (think of Ikea). (Read this other recipe for Scandinavian-style venison meatballs.)

There’s the various Middle Eastern types that are usually studded with bulgar wheat and rolled in flatbread, typically served with a topping of fresh herbs, leaves and yoghurt dressing.

The problem — or suspicion — hanging over meatballs is a suggestion of low-grade meat, and should you buy them ready-made from supermarkets they will be over-seasoned with salty nasties such as onion powder, so do read labels. Home-made, however, brings a very different animal. Rich, pure beef Italian meatballs have become something of a worldwide classic, and are eaten with flat egg noodles like pappardelle and tagliatelle.

But in my early years of researching recipes, I came to know an unusual Spanish version that was made — at the time it seemed incongruous — with fresh mint. Spanish cooks often serve mint with ham or pork. I discovered a recipe similar to this one made using fresh pork mince and smoked ham. This, I have since discovered, works beautifully with venison and so was created this recipe for minced venison meatballs with a Spanish twist.

It is important that the streaky bacon you use is fatty, because venison is not. This makes the meatballs lighter once cooked. Eat as part of a larger meal, along with a loaded board of dry-cured ham and cheese, quince paste and pickles.