Recipe: Venison Shepherd’s Pie

Venison brings an extra level of luxury to this humble classic.  

Recipe: Basket by the Door

Like all good, simple fare, this pie’s deliciousness is all thanks to the sum of its parts – a base of tasty soffritto, good-quality meat minced by hand and a light, fluffy potato topping. You could speed it up by skipping the long slow soffritto step and just sweating the onion, carrot and celery for 10 minutes or until soft and translucent. And you could also just buy pre-minced meat. The end result will still be lovely.

I am of course biased because we produce venison here on our farm, but truly this is the most wonderful of meats. Lean, full of delicate flavour and so easy to cook, please do try it whenever you get the opportunity. Here, venison brings an extra level of luxury to this simple, wonderful pie, but you could also stick with tradition and make this with minced lamb, or even minced beef (which is known as a cottage pie).

Serves 6–8


3 brown onions, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks
1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
700 g (1 lb 9 oz) venison topside or rump
150 g (51/2 oz) butter
1 Tbsp thyme leaves
400 ml (14 fl oz) beef stock
1 Tbsp cornflour
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp tomato paste (concentrated purée)
1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) floury potatoes
1/4 cup (60 ml) milk


First start the soffritto. Combine the onion, carrot, celery and olive oil in a saucepan over low heat. Cook for 2 hours, stirring every now and then, until the mixture is a thick, dark-brown paste.

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Meanwhile, cut the venison into small, pea-sized pieces. Doing this by hand takes about 10 minutes, but you could ask your butcher or use a food processor or mincer if you have one.

Melt 20 g (3/4 oz) of the butter in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium–high heat. Add the venison and thyme and cook, stirring often, until the venison is browned all over. Whisk together the beef stock and cornflour and add to the venison with the soffritto, Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste. Stir well, bring to a simmer and cook over low heat for 40 minutes. Season to taste.

While the meat is cooking, peel and cut the potatoes into small cubes. Place in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Cook over high heat until the potato is completely tender when pierced with a fork.

Drain and mash with 50 g (13/4 oz) of the butter and the milk. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Transfer the meat mixture to an ovenproof dish and top with the mashed potato (I sometimes add it in clumps, which seems to help it crunch up during baking).

Dot the top with the remaining butter and bake for 45 minutes or until the potato is golden and the meat is bubbling. Serve with a simple green salad.


Soffritto is a recipe base, usually of carrot, celery and onion cooked long and slow in olive oil, versions of which play a big part in Italian, French, Spanish and South American cooking. Although it is cooked for 2 hours in this recipe, most of that time is completely hands off and the result is an intense flavour bomb that will bring goodness to any soup, casserole, braise or pasta sauce you use it in.

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Make a double batch and freeze it in ice-cube trays for easy flavour access.

Recipe extracted from Basket by the Door by Sophie Hansen, published by Murdoch Books, RRP $45.00.

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