Emergency Venison Stew

I appreciate that the concept of a venison stew emergency might be a somewhat alien one, but bear with me: I used to live around the corner from a game dealer, and I appear to have chosen my new house on a similar basis. I tend to buy a lot of rabbit, venison and similar meats, as I am much happier about eating wild game than I would be about eating some greyish factory-farmed meat from the supermarket. As I see it, it’s one small step towards being a responsible meat-eater, together with the consumption of offal and, to quote Great Expectations, “those obscure corners of pork of which the pig, when living, had had the least reason to be vain”.* It’s certainly a more sustainable approach than eating endless cut-price chicken breasts or steaks.**

We tend, therefore, to have a rather game-heavy freezer. One day, in an uncharacteristic fit of organisation, I defrosted some venison with a view to cooking it in red wine in the time-approved manner. I then realised that I had no wine, I couldn’t go out and get any because Eoin was asleep upstairs and couldn’t be left, and the venison needed to be cooked that night or it would spoil. I scoured the cupboards for any suitable alternative, and turned up a rogue can of Guinness. “How bad can it be?” I wondered, eyeing the can. Having substituted stout for wine, I decided to throw caution to the winds as far as the other ingredients were concerned, and added sliced chorizo instead of the pancetta I had been planning to use as the “fatty” component (like rabbit, venison is so lean that it benefits from the addition of a little extra fat during the stewing process, to prevent it from drying out).

The end result was so unexpectedly delicious that I have now made the same recipe a few times over. The stout gives a very different flavour from the wine, but it is dark, rich and a little smokey, while the mushrooms and chorizo give the stew an earthiness and a spicy kick respectively. Even Eoin loves chewing on a chunk of venison, which is pretty much the most praise I could ask for.

Emergency Venison Stew

  • 500 g diced venison, suitable for stewing.
  • A couple of generous handfuls of dried wild mushrooms. I used some porcini, shiitake, and some of a general mixture. You could, of course, use fresh wild mushrooms, but I don’t tend to have large quantities of these hanging around. I do, however, have a tin full of dried mushrooms in the pantry.
  • One chorizo ring, sliced.
  • One large red onion (or two medium-sized), sliced.
  • One tall can or bottle of Guinness, or another stout.
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika, if desired.

Place the dried mushrooms in a heat-proof dish, and pour over boiling water to cover. Let them soak until they have rehydrated and the water has taken on some of their colour and flavour.

Heat some oil (I always use olive oil, because it’s what’s in the house) in a large pot, and brown the venison in batches. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside.

Keep the pot on the heat, add the onion, and then the chorizo. Fry until the onion has softened and the chorizo has released its paprika-y, fatty juices. You may wish to add a little smoked paprika at this point: it’s not obligatory, but if you can get your hands on some, it works well.

Drain the mushrooms and add them to the pan (reserve the soaking liquid for later). Cook for a few more minutes, then return the venison to the pan. Pour over the mushroom soaking liquid and the Guinness. You want the liquid to come almost to the top of the pan contents, but not to cover it.

Bring the stew to the boil, cover and turn the heat down as low as possible. Simmer for an hour or so. As with most stews, this gets better over time, so you might want to make it the day before you are going to eat it.

*I suspect what Dickens is referring to here might actually be something of the chitterlings or fries variety. Something intestinal or genital, anyway. I haven’t got that far yet, but brawn, sweetbreads and tripe are all gooood.
**We can get into a debate on the ethics of meat-eating later if you want to. Promise.

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16 thoughts on “Emergency Venison Stew

  1. Your style of writing is definitely worthy of Julia Child (I assume you are familiar with “Julie and Julia” by Julie Powell and with “Mastering the Art on French Cooking” by Julia Child?).
    A favourite genre of mine is prose intertwined with recipes (“You gotta have Balls” by Lily Brett, hilarious). You might like to consider publishing what you write on paper at some point.
    Yours, highly entertained,
    B.

  2. Wow: praise indeed! I’m very flattered, though I’d probably have to spend a lot more time working at it: I’m really just a dabbler in the kitchen. Glad you enjoyed it!

  3. I shall file this for use (when I get rid of James) in my fancy new recipe organiser courtesy of Cadbury’s FB page, I thought I entered a competition for a set of snazzy head phones, but no, Cadbury’s feel I am in need of culinary organisation! Recipe does sound yummy though, I’ll let u know if I manage to smuggle Bambi into the house!

    • I just looked her up: actually, that is sort of my attitude. Animals don’t just consist of the “pretty” cuts, and someone has to eat the odd, leftover bits. The fact that I really like the odd bits (I got massively excited on Saturday when I found you could buy fresh tongues, trotters and whole pigs’ heads in Cardiff market), added to the fact that they’re often cheaper, just makes things easier.

      There’s nowt wrong with stewing beef: we eat a lot of stew at our house, as you can probably tell from the previous paragraph. In fact, one of my other main reasons for eating a lot of game is that it’s often very cheap: my old butcher used to sell a rabbit (minus the saddle) for £1.99, and four pheasant legs for £1.50, both of which worked out as really good value. Plus, rabbits and deer are basically agricultural pests, and somebody may as well eat them if they’re going to be culled. If that somebody is me, so much the yummier!

      • No, not thumper and bambi!! *note to self, never ask Lorna to visit and take her for a walk to Bushy Park in case she brings a shotgun and some carrier bags* :p

  4. That sounds amazing… though I personally don’t tend to have random venison lying around the house*. I have duly Evernoted it for when I do.

    *Um… you don’t happen to have any good swan recipes, do you? No reason. Just… wondering.

    • The blasted Trinity fellows must keep all the swan to themselves: not a sniff of it did I ever get. Have you got a dealer, then? 😉

  5. Hey Lorna, Mum would love it if you had a rabbit stew recipe she could pilfer… pretty please?

    P.S. Dad says, ‘minus the buckshot’ 🙂

    • Actually, I do! I wasn’t going to post it yet as it is another game and chorizo combination (though with very different results), but just for your mum, I’ll finish it off and post it now.

      I do have a tin of laver bread in the cupboard but I haven’t dared try it yet!

      • thank you thank you, thank you!

        They were both regaling me with various ways they used to cook laver bread last night, but I’m afriad I’ve forgotten them already – something about rolling it in oats into a patty in a frying pan, then wrapping it in mashed potato? I’ll have to ask again.

  6. Pingback: Rabbit and red pepper stew | Biographia Domestica

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