What do you do? The Wicklow Hunter’s youngest brother calls to the office and leaves a sack. He tells me that it’s a gift from the brother. “All legal ‘an all” he assures me. I thank him profusely and check the contents. YES! It’s another venison leg, from a pretty young deer by the looks of it. This gets me thinking.
A couple of days go by and temperatures here in Dublin drop by a few degrees. The wife complains of cold hands and a cold nose. I find that It’s my feet that suffer most (as long as I have a wooly hat for my well-grown forehead). It’s definitely stew weather. My mind is made up. It has to be Venison and Three Winter Vegetable Stew. No time for getting cold feet about that decision.
The definitive list of ingredients:
- 1 leg of ‘legal’ venison
- 500 ml (1 pint) beef stock
- 500 ml (1 pint) chicken stock
- 2 onions
- 8 carrots
- 6 parsnips
- 1 turnip
- 4 stalks of celery
- 1/2 bottle of robust red wine (other half for chef / diners)
- A good handful of juniper berries
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper
- Flour for seasoning
- Oil for frying
When I look at the list and look at the picture, I wonder what I was doing early on in this process. Let’s blame the cold this time. The first thing that needs to be done is to prepare the meat. You probably will just have to cut open the plastic wrap and take out the meat. Free wild game meat means a bit of knife work.
The end result is a big plate of beautiful meaty chunks and some bones to add more depth of flavour.
Once that is done, flour the meat. I put the meat into a plastic bag with seasoned flour and shake it to coat. Then fry it, in batches, in the casserole dish.
While this is going on, stay warm by cutting the onions and celery. Take the meat off when cooked and stack it on a plate.
Then sweat the onions and celery off in the casserole, adding the onions first, the celery with about ten minutes to go and the juniper berries towards the end. This just helps the juniper berries start to release their flavour. It also adds a bit of interest to my photo.
Next, add the meat, wine, beef stock, chicken stock and bay leaves. You may as well add some salt and pepper at this stage too. don’t forget to add the bones too.
Time for the wine interlude. Regular readers will recognise this drop from the south of France. It is robust and full-bodied, somewhat like myself. We tipped half a bottle into the stew, the rest into ourselves.
Put a lid on the stew and pop it into a 200 degree C oven for two hours. Take it out, stir it and then add the vegetables that you sliced in the interim.
This goes back into the oven for another hour. Then take it out and remove the bones. Then reduce it, if you need to thicken the sauce, on the stove top while the potatoes that you also prepared are cooking. There is little left to do but serve it to your cold and appreciative diners.
They will be warm and grateful when they have had two helpings each, as my lot did. We can’t do anything about the weather but, don’t get cold feet over this recipe. It’s a real winter warmer.