Venison burger with blue cheese and blackberry-pickled beets

Kitchen Cabinet: Aran McMahon, owner of Rua Café in Castlebar, shares a favourite recipe

Wildwood Vinegars is an artisan food company based in the little village of Rathlackin, near Ballina in Co Mayo. Fionntán Gogarty produces a range of flavour-infused vinegars and balsamics, such as elderflower vinegar, wild mountain thyme vinegar. I have chosen to use the wild blackberry variety, but elderberry or damson vinegar would also work for this quick and delicious pickle.

For the meat for the burger, I went into Co Sligo. Lindy O'Hara of Coopershill has been rearing fallow deer on her 200-acre farm for 25 years. For many people the idea of venison is a touch exotic or foreign, and preconceptions of strong gamey tastes abound. Not true of Coopershill venison, says Lindy: "It's naturally reared and grass fed throughout spring and summer; all the deer are under two years old. We can guarantee the quality and consistency in a way you simply can't with wild deer."

For this recipe, I have used venison from Coopershill and pork from Andarl Farm. The venison is wonderfully lean and the addition of some pork fat makes for an extra juicy burger. For the best texture, pass the meat through a mincer; if you don't have one, ask your butcher to do it for you. Another option is to chop or pulse the meat with a food processor, but take care not to process too finely.

Aran McMahon is proprietor of Rua Café in Castlebar, Co Mayo.


Coopershill venison burger with Young Buck cheese and Wildwood vinegar pickled beets

Serves 4-5

600g of Coopershill venison mince (from shoulder or haunch)
150g Andarl Farm pork mince (belly or shoulder)
1 egg
100g of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 large onion, finely diced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Olive oil
To serve: Buns (Walsh's of Waterford do a good brioche one), Young Buck or Cashel Blue cheese, leaves and pickled beets.

For the Wildwood pickled beets
About 300g of beetroot – 2 to 3 medium sized ones
120-150ml of Wildwood blackberry balsamic vinegar


1 Make the beets first, they need to be made the day before you want to eat them. Sterilise your jar with boiling water.

2 Peel the raw beets and slice very thinly using a mandolin or knife. Pack into the jar as tightly as possible. Pour over the vinegar until beets are just covered.

3 You can use them the next day, but they'll taste better after a week. Once opened, keep the jar in the fridge.

4 To make the burgers, sweat down the onions and garlic in oil in a pan for five minutes, then transfer to a large bowl, and leave to cool.

5 When the onions are cool, add the venison and pork mince with some parsley, egg and some salt and pepper to the bowl. Mix well. Take a little of the mixture, cook in a hot frying pan so that you can then taste for seasoning. If you're happy with the seasoning, shape the mix into four or five patties about 2cm thick. Leave to settle for about one hour in the fridge before cooking.

6 Fry or barbecue the burgers for 4-5 minutes on each side, until nicely browned on the outside, and cooked through (with the juices running clear).

7 Put a slice of Young Buck, Cashel Blue or your chosen cheese on top of your burger patty, either halfway through cooking the second side or after the patty is cooked. In this case, place briefly under the grill, so the cheese softens (but does not melt).

8 Place the burger on a good quality bun and dress with some leaves and the pickled beets.

Kitchen Cabinet is a series of recipes for Food Month at The Irish Times from chefs who are members of Euro-Toques Ireland, in support of Ireland’s food producers. #ChefsMeetProducers