Game meatballs with shallots and green split peas

Serves 4-6

If you are a serious game cook you may well have some odd bits of game meat knocking around in the deep freeze – and meatballs make a great family or dinner party dish. You can use just venison or a mixture, but it's important to have a bit of pork fat in the mix for flavour and moisture.

6 large shallots, or a small onion, peeled and finely chopped
The leaves from a few sprigs of thyme
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
4 juniper berries, crushed
30g butter
100ml red wine
500g fatty minced pork
500g game meat, minced
200g fresh white breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
20 or so small shallots or button onions, peeled
1tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
A good knob of butter

For the sauce

A couple of good knobs of butter
1tbsp plain flour
1tsp tomato purée
100g green split peas, soaked for 1 hour
100ml red wine
500ml hot beef stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

First make the meatballs: gently cook the 6 shallots, thyme, garlic and juniper in the butter until soft, add the red wine and simmer until reduced by two-thirds, then leave to cool. Mix with the minced pork, game meat and breadcrumbs, then season with salt and pepper. Take a small piece of the mixture and cook gently in a frying pan, then taste it to check the seasoning.

Mould the mixture into small bite-sized meatballs, or bigger if you wish, then place on a tray in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to rest.

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Roast the 20 small shallots and the meatballs in a heavy roasting pan with the oil and butter for 20-30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper half way through and stir well so that they colour evenly.

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and stir in the flour; cook on a medium heat for 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste, then slowly stir or whisk in the red wine and hot beef stock to avoid lumps forming. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes, then add the split peas and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add the shallots and meatballs and continue simmering for another 15-20 minutes before serving.

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