Mental health warning – DO NOT cook a venison chili after cycling 80 kilometers in a blizzard.

Venison shoulderLast weekend, a couple of friends and I decided that it would be a good idea to go for a long cycle on Sunday morning. It had been snowing and the forecast was for things to clear. So, with a degree of abandon, we met soon after sunrise and headed south.  Temperatures were holding above zero and after about 30 minutes cycling the pain (along with the feeling) went out of my extremities. 

We decided that a pit stop for coffee and scones was essential. So on getting to Greystones, we spent a useful 30 minutes both warming and fueling up. Back in the saddle and south again, staying cool through Kilcoole, Newcastle, and Rathnew. There was no evidence of the promised 5 degrees. With frost pinched faces, some sense prevailed and we turned north for Ashford and another coffee stop. On then to Ballyhenry and Rathmore, shadowing the motorway back towards Dublin. Grey clouds gathered ominously overhead. Cold sapped muscles and minds did not need the wind, hail and snow that then assailed us. Any idea of stopping was overshadowed by the thought of starting again. All we could do is grind out a slow, painful and cold journey home.

At the homestead I remembered my loving family and their expectation of a Venison Chili for dinner on a bitterly cold evening. The pressure was ramped up for me when I heard we had extra guests including the Wicklow Hunter. The same Wicklow Hunter who had delivered the two venison shoulders that formed the basis of the chili.

A quick shower (to restore my circulation) and a lunch had me feeling like I might be ready to take on the task. On reflection, the extreme cold and exercise had sapped me of a lot of my cognitive abilities and dexterity.

I did remember to take a picture of the vegetables. I show it only to prove that I took it.

I did remember to take a picture of the vegetables. I show it only to prove that I took it.

The first evidence of this is that there is no ingredients shot. I forgot to take it. I actually assembled the ingredients, set up the shot and got distracted by something trivial.

The ingredients list runs as follows:

  • 2 shoulders of young venison
  • 3 onions
  • 3 peppers
  • 1 can of beer
  • 1 litre (2 pints) of venison stock*
  • 1 can of chickpeas 
  • 1 can of kidney beans
  • 1 teaspoon of hot chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of hot paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • 2 chilis (seeded)
  • 1 can of tomatoes

*The venison stock is as a result of my last venison outing. You can read about it here.

First I cleaned and trimmed the venison shoulders. Normally, this should take about half an hour.  This time, it took an hour and a half and two sliced fingers.

Venison chopped

The trimmed (hacked) venison shoulder meat. Ready for mincing and frying off.

The pressure was ramped up by the early arrival of my mother and, a few minutes later the Wicklow Hunter, himself a pretty excellent chef. The stress of the cold and energy loss was getting to me and I found myself numbed and unable to think through my recipe. I went on to chop and carmelise the onions.

Onions chopped

The onions chopped and ready to carmelise.

I should have done this while I prepared the venison. Another half hour wasted.

Wife popped in to see how dinner was going. I explained that I only had to mince half the meat, fry it off, chop the peppers, cut and de-seed the chilis, assemble the chili in the pot and cook it for a couple of hours. She did the timing for me and I realised that we would not be eating for three hours. Now mentally drained and more pressured I returned to the task in hand.

A rare shot of myself. Really feeling the pressure and not thinking straight.

A rare shot of myself. Really feeling the pressure and not thinking straight.

The next hour passed in a mixture of chopping, occasional photographing, sweating (me not the vegetables) and excuse making.

The peppers chopped and the chilis not. Pressure mounts.

The peppers chopped and the chilis not. Pressure mounts.

I minced about half the venison. "Unusual approach" remarked the Wicklow Hunter. No pressure...

I minced about half the venison. “Unusual approach” remarked the Wicklow Hunter. No pressure…

The venison chunks being browned. Not a bad photo despite the pressure.

The venison chunks being browned. Not a bad photo despite my feeling the heat.

The venison mince also being browned.

The venison mince also being browned.

A teaspoon of sugar added to the carmelised onions.

A teaspoon of sugar added to the carmelised onions. I could not resist a few pouring shots.

No amount of pressure and mental distress will prevent me getting one pouring shot. The tomatoes go in.

No amount of pressure and mental distress will prevent me getting a pouring shot. The tomatoes go in.

The venison chunks go in.

The venison chunks go in.

As I added the venison chunks, youngest daughter stuck her head around the door and asked kindly “Will dinner be long?” I am too ashamed of my response to tell you about it here.

Pouring shot number two. The peppers are added.

Pouring shot number three. The peppers are added.

I added the minced venison next and then deglazed the pan with beer.

This is a first for me. Deglazing a pan with beer.

This is a first for me. Deglazing a pan with beer. Pour number four.

Next I added all the chilis. I deseeded them with deference to the youngest and oldest diners, neither hot on very hot stuff.

Two chilis, added whole with seeds removed.

Two chilis, added whole with seeds removed.

Tired, I then rubbed my eyes. Yes before washing my hands. Another ten minutes wasted trying to wash out the chili burn.

Sweet paprika being added was too nice a shot to ignore.

Sweet paprika being added was too nice a shot to ignore. Despite the fact that I could barely see through the chili burn.

One and a half hours on the stove. I spent the time making excuses to the family before I added the chickpeas and kidney beans.

Ready to serve. Me beyond caring what it tasted like. Not a great result for me.

Ready to serve. Me beyond caring what it tasted like. Not a great result for me.

10 minutes resting (for me and the beans and peas) and I served the very hungry  hoard.

The Wicklow Hunter helped by piling on the coriander. Perhaps too much but it adds photographic interest.

The Wicklow Hunter helped by piling on the coriander. Perhaps too much but it adds photographic interest.

They loved it. I was beyond caring. I went to bed and slept for ten hours. Heed my warning. Blizzard cycle or cook. Don’t try both on the same day.

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  • Don’t you love it when the guests get involved in food styling? Yeah, me too. But after a couple of glasses of wine and a meal delayed by talking while preparing (not nearly as good an excuse as you had) I just let ’em help and pour everyone another glass. I hope there were leftovers because that’s the kind of dish that gets even better the next day and you probably would have been able to appreciate it more too.

    • Hi Stacy, Leftovers? If there were, nobody told me about them. All gone by the time I got home from work.

  • Excellent chili, sapped or not 🙂

    • Thanks Rosemary, Two days later and I am recovering well.

  • Epic pouring shot of peppers – that takes some doing. CoolCookStyle pointed me in the direction of her chilli which contains no beans. No beans! Apparently the mid-west never go near beans in a chilli! Who’d have thought…

    • There is always somebody doing a better chili. Probably because they are so easy to do?

      • You’re not wrong, although I bet Texas never tried using venison

        • Actually, they make a great venision chili in Texas–and they don’t use beans either. (My brother’s a hunter, and lives in San Antonio.) Ken

          • Excellent. Good to see somebody standing up for the Lone Star State. I must try the bean free approach.

  • Looks wonderful! So well written too Conor that I could feel your pain! Lovely pour shots too!

    • Thanks Barb. I might have to follow your lead and move on to a new photo challenge.

  • Beautiful pictures Conor, totally awesome..I can smell those venison in my kitchen…L.O.L

    • Thanks Mama, you are welcome here any time to try it.

  • I made venison chilli on Saturday, but at a leisurely pace, as it was for a party on Sunday. I took the chilli by bike, halfway across London, but my luck held – no blizzard 😉

    • I could have done with the chili when the hailstones hit, if it were to have been possible.

      • I needed the chilli when I got there – it was freezing on Sunday 😉

  • Living in DFW along with 5.6 million strangers, almost all who drive cars (many of them quite badly), made me give up cycling over 20 years ago. Too bad because I used to cycle 200 miles a week but there was a countryside back then. Now, it’s all a mammoth concrete urban center that sprawls in every direction with crazy people in cars who don’t like cyclists. Nonetheless, anyone who has seriously cycled has been caught in unexpected, nasty weather while on a ride (along with a flat tire or two). So, I can feel your pain albeit in the distant memory. The chile looks quite tasty and venison chile is the best of all although I prefer mine without the beans. I also noticed you are a proud owner of Wusthof Classic cutlery. I had never noticed before. Nice stuff. 🙂

    • Thanks for the empathy Richard. Not much has changed over the years. We are still regarded as a form of vermin by some if the motorised ones.
      The chili was pretty tasty. I would defer to you in this area as this is the first I have ever constructed.
      The Wusthof set was a 40th birthday present, so I have had them for quite a while. Love them.

  • Super brrrrr-ing adventure on the cycle, I would have never done it but that’s just me. I actually shivered a few times in the first few paragraphs. Thankfully you came to the chili part quickly after your encounters of the freeze-up kind and that really warmed me up. Hope it was appreciated after all your effort. It looks totally devour-able!

    • They claimed to enjoy it Sanjiv. Hopefully the weather will improve and I can get home to making a salad instead. Far easier.

  • Lucky you made it to bed and didn’t end up face first in the chili!

  • What an amazing post! I respect everybody’s choices and I don’t judge, but why would anyone decide to go vegetarian is beyond me:)

    • Not while the Wicklow Hunter has lead in his shells, if you know what I mean.

  • Wonderful recipe and what stunning meat! It’s best not to think straight, Conor…

    • Thanks Nick, a two day recovery and I can start to think about next weekend’s cycle…

      • I played football this weekend and my muscles are still VERY sore.

        • I am putting it down to cold and too much exertion. My age has nothing to do with it…

          • I put it down to cold, but I’m not sure I can argue that it’s my age… even if I were inclined to do so.

  • Ouch! Chile pepper in your eye is really bad 🙁 I can think of only one body part that is worse to touch after touching chile peppers…
    The photos turned out great despite whatever you did in the cold, and it sounds like the chili did too. I love the pouring shot of the salt and glad to see that the combination of venison with bell peppers worked for you, too.

    • I have done that in the past. It is something one does only once. I really was distraught with tiredness. So much so that I really did not care about the burning eye.

  • Heroic job, fine result, given the circumstances. I’ve found myself in similar situations, optimistically arranging dinner for visiting guests after a long day of work and or running/fishing. Inertia half way through, food served way too late and trying to stay awake after a couple of glasses of wine – endurance tests indeed – and I know it will happen again, despite advice such as yours 🙂

    • Why do we do these things? I am already thinking about next weekend’s cycle.

      • Optimism, enthusiasm, with a smattering of masochism – and yet happy to do it all again, hence your next bike ride plan. Carpe diem 🙂

  • Hat’s off to you for pulling off a fantastic chili and great dinner. I most probably would have used the 2nd stop at the coffee shop to telephone my regrets for canceling the night’s dinner. Even now, seeing how well your dinner went and how spectacular your chili looked, if caught in the same situation, I’ll call at the 1st coffee shop. 🙂

    • It’s funny, one gets completely pig headed when on the long cycle. The thought of giving up or letting it defeat you (or your dinner plans) is unthinkable. Perhaps the answer is to give up the long cycles?

  • Enticing recipe although lamb shoulder will kind’of pale next to venison! No complications down south: definitely no blizzards and only get on a stationary bike these days . . .

    • The stationary bike is good too. Just not so much fun with hail, rain, snow, cars and trucks.

      • 🙂 !

  • Well done on an excellent chili!

  • Conor, you are a true sage, always doling out bits of wisdom and tasty delights. That meat grinding photo is excellent. Also enjoyed the rare glimpse of your face. Now I know you’re not just a pair of floating hands. 😉

    • Thanks Tommy, A bit less stressed today than then and feeling a lot more relaxed. Perhaps I should pose for a portrait and show my good side to the world?

  • Beatiful looking chili. I bet it tasted heavenly!

    • Hi Lidia, Thanks for stopping by. It was pretty good and I think helped me sleep.

  • A) I applaud your efforts after cycling. I would be too lazy. B) I need a meat grinder at home. C) I need to find some fresh venison!

  • Burning eyes, sore limbs and a tired body and you still made a delicious looking meal and entertained guests…I’m impressed. I would have been impressed if you had just made it home and gone straight to bed.

    • That’s what I should have done Karen. But, the stubborn streak won out.

      • It is a trait that us Irish have. 🙂

  • Conor, it all looks great but one question! Is that a can of open Dutch Gold out of focus behind the stove. It was all romantic until… Tut tut.

    • I can’t comment on the grounds that I might incriminate myself.

  • As I write this I watch the snow falling furiously outside, it’s a wet, heavy, relentless falling snow, almost a blizzard. I am glad to be inside. Reading your post I can understand what you went through! The cold really can warp your mind. However, I see despite your brain freeze, you were able to produce such a beautiful dish. Looks gorgeous! I do hope you have warmed up.


    • I had warmed up. Thank you However, I went out for another spin today and the mist turned into rain. I know what it is to be soaked to the skin. I went today because there is snow forecast for tomorrow. Not nice.

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