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Venison involtini with roasted fennel

A different approach is needed when cooking venison from the various species of deer and Tim Maddams is harnessing the flavour of red deer in this recipe for Shooting Times. Serves two.

venison involtini recipe

Venison involtini

This venison recipe works with all sorts of venison, but I have tweaked this version to work best with red deer meat. The herbs and the roasted fennel all slant the flavour towards setting off the base of red deer meat, which I have found to be a little more delicate to handle than that of my beloved roe.

Red deer meat is coarser and more prone to disintegrating if overcooked, even when slow cooking. It also has a slightly more gamey taste to it as well. That said, it is still a truly delicious wild meat. It is tasty, healthy, ethical and sustainable, making it a fine choice for any thoughtful carnivores out there.

Venison involtini with roasted fennel

  • 1 bulb of fennel
  • 220g red deer venison
  • A few chilli flakes
  • Flaky sea salt
  • A few thyme leaves (or savoury leaves)
  • A few leaves of basil
  • A pinch or two of smoked paprika
  • A little red onion, very finely diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, sliced
  • Herby breadcrumbs (made earlier, see below)
  • Some butcher’s string
  • A couple of good knobs of butter
  • Half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to season ‘


  1. Cut the fennel in half lengthwise. Place the cut edges down on to a board and carefully cut lengthways wedges out of each half. Try to keep a little of the central stem attached to hold them together while cooking. Rinse, season and dress with a little oil.
  2. Take a seamed-out haunch steak and butterfly it. Use a sharp knife to slice nearly, but not all the way, through it at the narrowest edge. Leave the cut joined together at one edge and flatten out the meat a little with a rolling pin.
  3. Season the meat with chilli flakes, sea salt, thyme and basil leaves. Add a sprinkling of the smoked paprika and scatter over the onion and garlic, followed finally by around a dessertspoonful of the herby breadcrumbs. Now, roll up the venison and tie it securely.
  4. Heat a large frying pan — ideally one that will then go straight into the oven — over a moderate heat. Melt a knob of butter, then add the venison to one side of the pan and the fennel to the other. Keep moving the fennel and venison as they start to colour. Once the venison is browned, pop the pan in the oven at 200°C for five minutes until the meat is firm, but not tough.
  5. Remove the venison from the pan and place somewhere warm to rest. Toss the fennel and return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
  6. To serve, slice the venison, remove the string and arrange on a plate. Scatter over some roasted fennel. Melt the remaining butter in the warm pan, add any resting juices and squeeze in lemon juice. Drizzle that mixture over the plate and sprinkle over more breadcrumbs. Serve with fries.

To make herby breadcrumbs 

You will need:

  • 100g breadcrumbs
  • 1 dsp each of parsley leaf and basil leaf, chopped
  • 1 tsp each of thyme leaf and sage leaf, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 20ml light olive oil method

Blitz everything in a blender, season then spread out on a lined baking sheet. Toast them in the oven until golden brown, but keep an eye on them as they can quickly burn. Once toasted, remove from the tray and set aside. They keep well and are very useful.

I have been a fan of roe venison for a long time and, while there are a lot of very fine roe around my new home in Scotland, there are also a large number of red deer available. Hence, I have found myself cooking more red deer venison of late. Anyone who simply describes venison as venison has a long way to go to understand the huge differences in the meat textures, flavours and cookery characteristics between the various deer species. This is one of the many hurdles that is faced by those working hard to get more wild venison in front of the general public.