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Roast venison loin with braised lentils

Lentils make a great accompaniment to all roast meats, their earthy taste going particularly well with venison loin, writes Rose Prince

roast venison loin with puy lentils

Venison with Puy Lentils, orange and Quince.

This recipe is generous for two but I always make double if cooking lentils, grazing on them throughout the week. They have beneficial health properties, as does venison, so this dish ticks every box.

Roast venison loin with braised lentils


For the lentils: these can be prepared in advance and reheated

  • 200g green Puy lentils (or Italian brown lentils from Umbria)
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed but left whole
  • 150ml red wine
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme or ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • ½ stick celery, finely chopped
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To dress: extra virgin olive oil


  • 300g boned and rolled venison loin
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Quince dressing:

  • 2 tbsp quince paste (membrillo)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice


  1. Put the lentils in a saucepan and add the garlic, red wine and thyme. Cover with water to a depth of 2cm, then heat until simmering. Continue to cook until the lentils are just tender. It is important not to overcook them, so start testing them after 20 minutes as different batches of lentils take between 20 and 35 minutes. When ready, tip the lentils into a bowl to cool so they do not carry on cooking.
  2. Add the olive oil to a pan and fry the diced carrot over a medium heat until it shrivels — but do not allow the carrot to brown. Add the onion and celery and continue to cook until soft but not browned. Remove from the heat then add to the lentils and gently stir in. Add a little olive oil. Warm the lentils in a pan over a low heat just before serving. Season to taste.
  3. To roast the venison loin, preheat the oven to 160°C/Gas Mark 3. Season the loin, then melt the butter in an ovenproof pan placed over a medium-high heat. When the butter foams, place the venison loin in the pan and roll it around to brown on all sides.
  4. Place the venison in the oven and cook for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the loin (red deer takes the longest, roe deer the least). Ideally, the meat should be served medium rare — if using a meat thermometer, 50 to 51°C is the perfect temperature for the inside of the joint.
  5. To test manually, insert a metal skewer into the joint so its tip meets the centre. Wait for 30 seconds then remove it and test the tip with your finger — it should feel warmer than your skin, close to a ‘hot bath’. Return the meat to the oven for another 5 minutes if you are not satisfied it is ready. Cover the meat lightly with foil and rest it on a board for about 5 minutes.
  6. Place the roasting pan over a low heat, then add the quince paste, 2 tbsp of water and cook until you have a reduced light syrup. Add the lemon juice, pour the mixture through a sieve and set aside.
  7. Slice the meat and serve beside the warm lentils. Pour over the cooking juices. The dish goes well with spring greens or kale.

A note on lentils

For this classic, try to find genuine puy lentils or the equally nice brown Umbrian version. The advantage of these lentils is that — if not overcooked — they will have a delightful al dente texture, a perfect foil for all roast meats, wild or farmed. They’re especially wonderful with venison.

Other green lentils tend to turn to mush easily and are larger and less pleasantly textured. It can take a little practice to perfect cooking lentils, but if you test them — by biting one — after 20 minutes’ cooking, you will be on top of the situation.