I want you to imagine my youngest daughter. She is an innocent thing who likes small animals and fluffy things. She loves Disney cartoons. One of her favourites is Bambi. She finds the various scenes of innocence touching. When she watches it, she will be heard to say things like “Ahhh, so pretty.” and “Ohhhh, aren’t the chipmunks so cute.”
I am telling you all this because I recently suggested that I cook a rabbit stew for the family. This led to the following unfortunate conversation:
Benign Father: What would you think of a nice rabbit stew?
Youngest Daughter: No way! You can’t cook cute bunnies.
BF: But you eat chicken. They are cute too.
YD: Not as cute as bunnies.
BF (In slight desperation): What about venison? You ate Bambi before.
YD (Dismissively and with finality): That doesn’t matter. Thumper is the cute one in that film. You are NOT going to cook Thumper.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have gone to the Bambi place. It was not very mature of me. But, when the Wicklow Hunter told me he had a haunch of Venison hung and ready for me, I decided that Bambi was going to get cooked and the family was going to like it. No discussion. No weakening of my resolve. Thumper would have to wait for another day. Run free little bunny, for today, it’s Daube of Venison with Chive Mash.
Here’s what I used:
- A nice big piece of venison. (I think this piece was from the top of the leg).
- 5 onions
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 10 carrots
- bacon lardons
- 3 dried bay leaves
- Rosemary from my garden
- Dried cranberries (what you see in the photo)
- Pickled onions
- 2 large teaspoons of cranberry jelly
- 1 teaspoon of paprika (My brother sent me the brilliant Ben Hur brand from his home in Tanzania.)
- A pint or so of beef stock
- Flour for dusting the meat
- Salt and pepper to season the flour
- 2 bottles of good wine (One for the stew, one to drink while preparing and ultimately eating the stew.) I find that using the same wine for cooking as accompanying gives great harmony of tastes. Don’t use cruddy wine in your cooking. It’ll make the dish cruddy too. Whatever you do, don’t drink cruddy wine either, unless you’re into that sort of thing.
- Chives for the mash
Here’s how to cook it
Chop those onions nice and fine. Chop the garlic too. Add them both to a some oil in a casserole dish and sweat them over a low heat for about half an hour, stirring occasionally. Venison is not the most overtly flavoursome meat though it is quite strong. It is exceptionally lean and a Daube needs to have the layers of flavour built as you go. The onions and garlic are the first layer.
Side note: The new WordPress stats page tells me that I am getting a lot of visitors from the US of A. Howdy folks. WordPress does its spell check in American and suggests I spell flavour as flavor. I won’t. Sorry America.
While the onions are sweating away, get your hands on the meat. Trim, debone and generally prepare it for going into the stew (Daube sounded a bit fancier so I used it in the title).
When the onions have done their thing and gone pretty translucent and have filled the house with cooking smells, spoon them out, add a very little oil and fry off the lardons. I probably could have done with more but I did not have more.
Scoop out the lardons and when you have dusted the meat in flour, add more oil to the pot and brown the meat in batches.
When it is browned remove the last batch. You hopefully have not burned the excess flour and have instead some nice dark brown residue at the bottom of the pan. Add back in the onions and garlic. On to layer three. It’s all in the photo:
Add the beef stock (layer 4) and the venison. Then spoon in the cranberries and cranberry jelly. Add the orange zest (layer 5).
Put this on a low heat and clean up the mess you have made. If this takes you two to three hours, that’s good because that’s how long the stew needs to do its thing.
Then add the carrots, mushrooms and pickled onions. Yet another layer or three. Let it stew (or Daube) for another half hour. While this is happening, mash the potatoes that you have so expertly timed to be ready at this time. Add the chopped chives and mash some more.
Now serve it to your hungry and soon to be appreciative guests. In truth, venison is not at the very top of my list of meats. However, a gift from the Wicklow Hunter is not to be refused and with the right treatment, it produces a pretty excellent Daube (or stew).
Now that’s out of the way, I need to think a bit about those cute little bunnies…..