Lola and Finn's Mum

Lola and Finn's Mum

Friday, 25 January 2013

In case the snow comes again (fingers crossed!) Venison Stew

Some people don't like snow. Luckily, I have firmly held on to my inner child and adore the stuff. If there is any better weather induced happiness than making the first footprint into virgin snow then I don't know what it is. Even lounging about on a sun lounger in the Mediterranean sun is only equal to the contentment I feel striding out through the white stuff. But then, in winter, I want snow. I expect snow. I am not a fan of three months of cold rain and grey cloud. And, because I am a subversive soul, I smile inwardly and outwardly at the chaos it brings. What's that? Snow day? Fabulous. Where's the sled?

The garden...
The oak tree...
The kids!
So if, like me, you have a penchant for sledging and snow in all its forms, you'll be wanting a meal to mind its own business, cooking away whilst you are busy outside pretending to be six or seven years old. And when you come in, hands stinging through cold, nose red, toes numb, glowing with youthful exuberance, your house will be alive and warm with the aroma of winey meaty stew. Your job will be to whip up a little bit of mountain of mash and some iron rich greens and then dish up. Wow. I sound organised.
I am frequently visiting Taylor's Farm Shop in Lathom, Lancashire and it was there that I found some diced venison which was cheaper per pound than the beef I was planning to buy. So, because I am, fundamentally, skint I decided on buying that instead, as well as my regular ham hock and about a tonne of steak mince. It was this Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall recipe that I had in mind when buying my meat when made, turned out to be a lovely light, but substantial dish. (Mash helps here, clearly!)
Lola and Finn's reaction? Well, after they'd thawed out they liked the dish in general. They really liked the gravy which though thinner than you might be used to, is really flavoursome. The meat is lean and benefits from the slow cooking indicated in the recipe. Finn even ate the cabbage and liked it. I imagine they will have nailed the lid on and I still won't have figured out what makes him tick when it comes to the food he chooses to eat. Crazy.
By the way, there is a distinct lack of pictures here and the reason is that I am 'between cameras'. I was bought a very jazzy technical camera for Christmas which is very nice but I still haven't figured out how to take pictures without blurring them. Anything that looks clear is through luck more than judgement. It also eats batteries like you wouldn't believe and that means I use my retired camera whilst my jazzy camera's batteries are charging. And then I forget I've done that. And then I delete them by mistake...
Venison Stew, adapted from Stewed Venison by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall
(The quantities here are halved from the original recipe - enough to feed Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad)
1 tbsp oil (or dripping)
125g salted pork belly or pancetta, cut into chunky cubes (I used diced pancetta)700g venison neck and shoulder meat, cut into large chunks (I used diced shoulder)1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into big chunks
1 sticks celery, sliced (I diced mine very small or those who don't like celery)1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme (I used 1 tsp dried thyme)75ml red wine (I used a Cotes Du Rhone)250ml-plus beef or game stock (I used beef, and you need enough to cover the meat and vegetables) Salt and black pepper
Heat the oil in a large, heavy frying pan.
Add the pork and fry gently until it is lightly browned and the fat runs.
Transfer the pork to a casserole, but leave the pan and bacon-flavoured oil on the heat.
Now brown the venison, in batches, transferring it to the casserole as soon as it is lightly coloured.
Add the onions to the pan and sweat until soft but not brown.
Transfer to the casserole, then add the carrots, celery, bay leaves and thyme to the pan. Deglaze the pan with wine - allow it to bubble for a minute, to evaporate some of the alcohol.
Pour over the meat, along with the stock and a little water if needed: the meat should be covered by a good couple of centimetres.
Season sparingly with pepper, but not salt (the bacon will be quite salty).
Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, at a very low, tremulous simmer for one-and-a-half to two hours (up to three if you've used neck or shanks on the bone), until the meat is very tender.
(You can also cook it, covered, in a slow oven - about 140C/275F/gas mark 1.)
When the meat is cooked, taste the stew and adjust the seasoning. The juice will be thin, but well-flavoured.
Serve with a dollop of good, buttery mash and steamed seasonal greens.


  1. This is what I call a comforting meal , great for the cold winter that we're having now! Glad that the kids are having a great time playing with snow! ;)

  2. I'm one of those who have love-and-hate relationship with winter and snow...

    Everything look so beautiful being white and snowy but the chill can be grueling... This version stew is perfect for your family to fight the chill and provides lots of warmth to enjoy the snow!



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