Venison stew

Venison stew, celeriac, buttered beets and chardThis recipe for an Italian venison stew is from the Guardian column by Henry Dimbleby and Jane Baxter. It caught my eye as I had bought some lovely diced casserole venison from South Downs Venison and Game at the farmers’s market, but I also had some beetroot that needed finishing up, and I fancied the sound of the buttered beets that Dimbleby and Baxter give as an accompaniment (they serve it with kale polenta too, which sounds good, but my partner is not that keen on polenta so I decided to give that a miss – and I certainly wasn’t taken with the idea of serving it by pouring it over my dining table!).

I made it the day before we wanted it, as this always seems to improve a stew. I’m not normally the casserole chef in our house, so was very pleased that this was easy to do and turned out well – partly due to the excellent quality of the meat – and I’ll definitely be making it again. I served it with the buttered beets, some steamed chard (also from the market) and creamed celeriac.

The celeriac was a free take on this NOPI celeriac purée recipe: I cooked some diced onion in olive oil, then added diced celeriac and cooked it, turning often, until golden before adding a little vegetable stock and simmering gently for 15 minutes until tender. Finally, I blitzed it using a stick blender until it was smooth and I have to say it was  streets ahead of any previous creamed celeriac I’ve made, and moreover it contains no butter or cream so it’s dairy-free.

Afterwards we had Lemon Mascarpone Mousse. As the stew needs such a low oven, you could cook a custard or rice pudding alongside the stew if you wanted a more comforting pudding. These quantities serve 3-4.

10g dried porcini mushrooms
1-2 dstsp olive oil
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
1 stick celery
1 carrot
60g pancetta
1tbsp flour (rice flour works fine)
500g stewing venison cut in large pieces
1 bay leaf
A sprig or two of thyme
A pinch of ground cloves
A grating of nutmeg
100 ml red wine
100 ml beef stock
200g chestnut mushrooms
A good knob of butter (or oil if you prefer)
A handful of parsley, chopped

Cover the porcini with 150ml of boiling water – I did this in a pyrex measuring jug – and leave to soak for at least 20 minutes. Heat the oven to 120º C. Finely chop the onion, garlic, celery and carrot.

Heat 1 dstsp oil in a large frying pan and cook the pancetta until golden. Dry the pieces of venison with kitchen towel. Mix the flour with a good grating of salt and pepper in a shallow dish and carefully coat the venison pieces in the seasoned flour.

When the pancetta is golden transfer it to a casserole, add a bit more oil if necessary, and brown the venison in two batches (see my comments about the secrets of success in making stew here), transferring it to the casserole as it is done.

Venison stewAgain, add a little bit more oil if needed, and tip the chopped vegetables and garlic into the pan. Take the porcini out of their soaking liquid (keep it to one side), chop them finely and add to the vegetables in the pan, stirring around. As they start to colour add the porcini soaking liquid, wine, stock, herbs and spices (don’t get carried away with the nutmeg – just a couple of grates will do it). The original recipe includes some tomato purée, but I find it can have a rather dominant flavour, so don’t keep it to hand – the stew was very tasty without it. Cook for a few minutes, stirring, then pour over the meat in the casserole and bring the whole lot to a simmer. Cover the casserole and put into the oven for 1½ hours.

Trim and quarter the mushrooms and cook them in the butter (or oil) until they start to colour. Stir into the casserole and cook for a further 10 minutes. Serve garnished with chopped parsley. Mash, soft polenta or mashed parsnips would all go really well if you don’t have or don’t fancy celeriac plus any kind of dark green leafy veg.

It was such a satisfying winter dinner, and would be easy to do for company too, as most of the work can be done ahead. And I have another portion sitting in the fridge for an after-work dinner.

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