Autumn Venison Casserole
When the leaves have begun to turn glorious shades of red, orange and yellow and the landscape is shrouded in mist and fog, it makes us think of nothing more gladdening than a rich, warming casserole.
Venison is well and truly in season in autumn and provides the meat at the heart of this dish. Gentle marination followed by long slow cooking creates a full-flavoured meal with melt-in-the-mouth texture.
We used blackberry vinegar (or you could add plum vinegar) to add just the right amount of sweetness and gentle fragrance and the addition of a few allspice berries and some mace brings delicate exotic warmth.
We served ours with mashed celeriac and small potatoes roasted in their skins with rosemary and garlic. You could have creamy mashed potato instead or even some hunks of crusty bread to mop up the gravy.
To marinate the venison
- 300g diced venison
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half lengthways
- fresh rosemary, couple small sprigs
- 6 allspice berries
- black pepper, freshly ground
- 2 tbsp blackberry or plum vinegar
- 1 tbsp extra virgin cold pressed rapeseed oil
For the casserole
- 1 tbsp extra virgin cold pressed rapeseed oil
- half medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
- 1 celery stick, finely diced
- quarter tsp ground mace
- 1 bay leaf
- 125ml red wine
- 200ml venison or beef stock
- 1 tsp cornflour mixed with a little cold water (optional)
- small knob butter
- 6 shallots, the round type
- 5 chantenay carrots, halved lengthways
Place the diced venison in a bowl and add the garlic, rosemary, allspice berries, ground black pepper, blackberry vinegar and rapeseed oil. Mix well, cover the bowl with some cling film and leave to marinate for 1 – 2 hours.
In a casserole, heat the tablespoon of rapeseed oil and add the onion, carrot and celery and fry gently until soft and translucent. Stir in the mace and add the bay leaf and cook for a further minute. Turn off the heat.
Now heat frying pan until hot and use tongs to take the meat out of the marinade and place in the frying pan, reserving the rest of the marinade mixture. Fry the meat quickly until seared on all sides. Transfer to the casserole pot along with the cooked onions, carrots and celery.
With the pan still on the heat tip in the wine and marinade mix and boil while scraping up all the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the marinade mix (including the garlic, herbs and spices) Simmer for a minute and then transfer to the pot with the venison along with the stock.
Place the casserole back on the heat an stir to mix, bringing the mixture to a simmer. Turn down heat to the lowest setting and cover with a cartouche (see note). The pot should be barely bubbling. Place on the lid and cook for 2 hours until the venison is soft and melting in texture. Check the seasoning and add salt according to taste. You could also place the casserole in the oven at 140C or Gas mark 1.
If you wish you may want to thicken the casserole juices by first combining a teaspoon of cornflour with a little cold water in a small bowl. Add a little at a time to the casserole and stir in and simmer until the juices thicken slightly.
30 minutes before the casserole is ready, prepare the shallots and carrots.
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and put in the unpeeled shallots and carrots. Simmer until the carrots are just tender. You can check by inserting the tip of a sharp pointed knife into a carrot.
Drain and remove the shallots and carrots. Allow the shallots to cool a little before removing their skins.
Place a frying pan over a medium heat and drop in a knob of butter. Add the shallots and carrots and cook gently until they take on a little colour.
When done tip the shallots, carrots and butter into the casserole and mix gently to combine. Cook gently for a further 5 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf and any rosemary stalks before serving.
NOTES ON INGREDIENTS
A good artisan fruit vinegar can make all the difference to a casserole. Womersley Fruit & Herb Vinegars make a range of delicious concoctions to enhance your cooking.
Venison is available from Blackface Meat Company. It is totally wild and grazes on the Scottish heather moorlands.
NOTE: A cartouche is a piece of grease proof paper cut to fit inside of your casserole and cover the surface of the ingredients. The cartouche prevents your stew from drying out as it gives an extra layer of protection close to the surface, keeping in the steam.
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