Spotting a rather stunning herd of deer this morning on my daily constitutional with our spaniel pup, Monty. I was reminded not only of their beauty and shy elegance, but also of a recent abundance of venison in our local butcher’s shop.
Planning meals over the Christmas hols is often a headache with numerous guests and endless catering to be done so what better than a dish that can be left to its own devices while you entertain. High time I put Rudolph on the festive menu…..well his ‘deer’ cousin anyhow. Must remember not to crack the Rudolph joke in front of Primrose when I serve this one up. She still hasn’t forgiven me for tricking her into eating Jemima Puddleduck!
This dish – Slowly Does It Venison Stew – is slow food at its best – pop in the oven, wrap up warm, go out for a wintry walk and make sure you leave someone behind to stoke that roaring log fire. You won’t be disappointed when you return in need of sustenance and the culinary equivalent of a hot water bottle.
Venison stew(serves 4)
700g diced venison
6 rashers of streaky smoked bacon, cut into thin strips
a generous helping of chestnut mushrooms
4 anchovies or a glug of anchovy sauce
a knob of butter
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp juniper berries, crushed
1 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
4 bay leaves
2 sticks of celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
A couple of sprigs of rosemary
Handful of dried mushrooms (I use a mixture of wild mushrooms but porcini alone would work well)
1 pint of red wine
- Mix together all the ingredients for your marinade in a large dish that you can get in the fridge and add your venison, stirring to coat the meat. Marinade your venison for at least 48hrs. This will tenderise the meat and the marinade imparts all its magical flavours, making up the sauce which the venison will braise in. It is onerous dicing the legumes for this one but well worth it as you won’t want to be biting into large chunks of vegetables once it has cooked.
- Preheat oven 150C/Gas 2. Separate the meat from the marinade using a slotted spoon when you are ready to cook the stew. Add a knob of butter to the pan and fry off the bacon, anchovies and mushrooms. Once the bacon has begun to take colour, add the venison back to the pan and the separated vegetables from the marinade. Colour the meat a little before adding 1tbsp of plain flour. Add the remaining marinade and allow the red wine to bubble away for a couple of minutes.
- Place in the oven and cook for 1 ½-2 hours or until the meat is tender. For the last part of the cooking, I tend to turn the oven down to a very low heat so that the sauce remains plentiful but the meat continues to stew gently. The meat should fall apart on eating so don’t rush the cooking.
This is wonderful served with lashings of buttery mash (Jerry’s culinary masterpiece – in fact, the only thing he can actually make without calamity) and braised red cabbage. Equally though, it could look rather more elegant served with polenta and wilted cavolo nero.