Ingredients (for 4)
900g stewing venison cut into 3-4cm pieces
2 tablesp. olive oil
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped, or crushed
3-4 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves; 1/2 tablesp. juniper berries, crushed
1 tablesp. plain flour
Juice of 1 orange, grated zest of 1/2 orange
150ml beef stock
100g chestnut mushrooms, halved or quartered (depending on size) or oyster mushrooms, torn, or mixture of two
200g cooked and peeled chestnuts
- Preheat the oven to 160 deg.C (Fan 150 deg.C) or Gas Mk 3. Season the venison with black pepper. Heat the oil in a deep, flameproof casserole dish that has a lid and brown the venison for 3-4 mins in batches. Add a little more oil after the first couple of batches if you need to. Once the meat is browned, set aside.
- Add the onions to the pan and soften on a gentle heat for 5 – 10 mins, scraping any bits that may have got stuck to the bottom on the pan. (These bits really do add flavour to stews, so you want to scrape them off rather than give them the opportunity to burn on the base of the pan.) If the pan feels a little dry, add a drizzle more oil and a splash of water.
- Once the onions have softened, add the carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, bay leaves and crushed juniper berries. Continue to cook gently for a further 10 mins.
- Add the flour, stirring to combine. After a couple of minutes, add the orange juice and zest, port, stock, mushrooms and some salt and pepper. Now return the browned venison along with any juices that may have collected in the pan. Bring to the boil, then cover with a lid and pop in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.
- Stir in the chestnuts and return the dish to the oven. Depending on the venison, the stew will need a further 30 mins – 1 hr to cook through and it is ready when the venison has completely tenderised.
And Summer it was! A warm, balmy night and so we ate ‘al fresco’. The evening was kicked off with the traditional, quintessential English Summer drink – Pimms – choc full of oranges, lemons, strawberries, cucumber and mint and tumbled over ice, it made for a refreshing start to the meal. The first course was a broad bean and pistachio hummus, served over home made, toasted basil bread and dressed with a little balsamic, chopped pistachios and mustard cress. Then followed a succulent confit of salmon, glistening under a dusting of freshly chopped dill and accompanied by some crab and dill crushed new potatoes and a little dressing made from olive oil, a little lime juice and more freshly chopped dill. A generous helping of another traditional English Summer dish – Eton Mess – completed this three course dining event.
Saturday, March 7th is Supper Club Night! The theme is “A Taste of Sicily”. Being a big fan of Georgio Locatelli, most of the recipes I have used are from his book: Made in Sicily. The evening starts with a welcome drink: Limoncello Cocktail and some Italian Breadsticks. From Georgio’s book, I have used the following recipes: The starter is Sweet & Sour Baked Peppers, drizzled with a little Saba, also known as Vincotto. Saba (or Vincotto) is not unlike an aged Balsamic (I recommend Belazu Oak Aged Balsamic) but is a little sweeter and NOT a vinegar. It is made by the slow cooking and reduction, over many hours, of non-fermented grape must until it has been reduced to about one fifth of its original volume and the sugars present have caramelised.
Breakfast dressed with Saba
Saba (or Vincotto) is a marvellous addition to many dishes. I often use it drizzled over a breakfast of cottage cheese and fresh fruit, seasoned with crushed pink peppercorns and then drizzled with the Saba. I have also used it to add dimension to gravies and sauces and as a secret ingredient in a red onion chutney! The main course used seasonal Sea Bream baked with Potato, Capers & Tomato. I managed to obtained some generously sized bream from Sandy’s Fishmongers in Twickenham, where they happily cleaned, scaled, deheaded and detailed them for me. The fish is served on the bone, but the cooked fish, yields the main bone structure very easily and so the fish isn’t particularly fiddly to eat. To finish off, a Ricotta Tart accompanied with Limoncello Ice cream!