Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Venison Casserole

Long slow cooking is normally an excellent method for tougher cuts of meat with fat and sinew that needs the time to break down to unctousness in the liquid of choice. Venison on the other hand is very lean and so, although it can still be cooked in the same way, a lot more care needs to be taken.

For a start, it is very important that it is allowed to cook at not too hot a temperature - because of its leanness it will just dry out and get chewy if cooked at too high a heat. In essence it needs to be just “ticking over”. Adding pancetta as I have here also adds a little extra fat to help keep the meat moist.

I’ve used beer in this casserole as I think it gives a more subtle flavour than the more in your face claret or port. And as it is always advised that you should cook with the best wine possible - in fact it is suggested that if you wouldn’t happily drink it with guests then don’t cook with it - using beer here also makes it a lot more friendly on the wallet.

Venison Casserole
serves 2, easily

500g venison shoulder, diced into approx 3cm chunks
plain flour
1 tbsp groundnut oil
1 tsp olive oil
5g butter
1  onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, crushed
75g pancetta
2 medium carrots, chopped
100g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
250ml brown ale (such as Newcastle Brown Ale)
150ml beef stock
½ star anise
1 tsp soft light brown sugar
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme, leaves picked
3 lightly crushed juniper berries
1 tsp tomato purée
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 150C/Gas Mark 2.

Toss the venison in seasoned flour to coat and heat the groundnut oil in a heavy casserole dish. Fry the venison in batches for 5–6 mins until browned on all sides. Transfer to a bowl or plate with a slotted spoon.

Heat the olive oil and butter in the casserole. Add the onions and cook until softened, but not browned.

Add the garlic and pancetta & cook for a further couple of minutes.

Add the venison & any accumulated juices back to the casserole and then gradually add the beer & stock, scraping up stuck bits from bottom. Bring to a hard simmer and add the carrots, star anise, sugar, bay leaf, thyme, juniper & tomato purée. Season well with freshly ground black pepper.

Bring to the boil and stir well. Put the lid on the casserole and place in the middle of the oven.

Cook for 90 minutes and then remove the lid, add the mushrooms and cook for a further 30 mins. Taste & adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Serve with mash flecked with parsley, as we had, or new potatoes.

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