20 September 2010
Simpler Venison Casserole Recipe
Having gone through the fuss and carry on of marinading venison in stock per the previous post, I wondered why you do not just make a stew in the normal way as you would for beef or lamb. Also, I still had some of the Hornby Castle venison in the fridge that had been newly defrosted.
One of the issues I reckoned was the fact that venison is quite lean and so might dry out during a long slow cook. I overcame that by frying up some chopped streaky bacon and using that as extra fat that would keep the venison moist throughout the cooking process. Finally, to ensure a melt-in-your-mouth experience when eating, I still cooked the venison casserole for a decent and long time.
Another little trick that I used was to cook in beer. It is cheaper than wine, feels much more genuinely British and local than wine and its flavour profile is much more subtle than the wham, bham, smack in the face of claret. Beer often has a pleasant sweetness and spicy overtones that go really well with meat; in this case, I used a bottle of Innis & Gunn Original from Edinburgh, which suggests that it is a "smooth Scottish beer with hints of toffee, vanilla and oak", plus it was not as thick and treacly as many full on real beers, with a paler hue that I felt would work well.
The end result was a delicious, succulent and meaty stew, full of meat that felt soft and velvety in the mouth. Delicious and better than the marinaded version from earlier, plus a lot easier.
How to Make Axel's Venison In Beer
675g / 1½lb diced venison, 3cm / 1 inch cubes
1tsp lard or butter
100g / 3½oz streaky bacon, cut into 3cm / 1 inch long squares
1 dessertspoon sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely sliced
1 carrot, finely sliced
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme (from garden or 1 tsp dried thyme)
3 - 5 juniper berries, lightly crushed
200ml / 8 fl oz / 1 cup beef stock (once again I used a prepared beef stock from Truefoods)
75ml / 2¾ fl oz / ¼ cup light beer
Firstly, I cooked the streaky bacon in a small amount of lard in a frying pan until it was crispy, then transferred these to a heavy bottomed pan or casserole dish. Then, I browned the venison in the same frying pan; when this was completed, all the venison, juices and fats were transferred to the casserole dish.
I wiped the frying pan clean, then added the sunflower oil and fried the onion pieces until translucent, which takes about 5 minutes under a low heat. When translucent, I added the celery and carrot slices and fried it all for another 2 minutes. After this, everything was transferred to the casserole pot.
All the rest of the ingredients were added into the casserole pot and stirred. The stew was heated to boiling then the heat reduced to allow the sauce to bubble gently away with the lid off. The casserole should be cooked like this for about 3 hours. It should not dry out, but if needed top up with some more of the beer.
Serve the venison casserole with mashed potato and shredded cabbage. I actually used a sweet potato-normal potato mash in the ratio of 1:3.