Venison Casserole

venison casseroleIngredients (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
250ml port
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

  1.  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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Coq Au Blanc (recipe taken from “The Skinny French Kitchen” by Harry Eastwood)

The recipe serves 6 and was ‘road-tested’ for the Supper Club – A Taste of France on 9th May 2015.


1 Tablesp. Olive Oil
6 lg chicken thighs, skinned and on the bone
3 med. carrots, cut into small dice
3 med. onions peeled and finely chopped
3 tablesp. plain flour
400 ml white wine
500 ml Chicken Stock (I would recommend halving this quantity as the reality was a lot of liquid)
Bouquet garni of thyme, parsley and 3 bay leaves
250g button mushrooms
1 tablesp. tarragon leaves, chopped
Salt & Pepper

1.  Heat the olive oil in a large casserole dish, then brown the chicken pieces over a medium heat, turning them until they are golden all over.  Remove from the dish and set aside.

2.  Add the carrots, onions and celery to the dish, letting them absorb the juices for a few minutes.

3.  Next, add the flour to the dish and coat the carrots and onions thoroughly, turning them until there is no loose flour left.

4.  Add the wine and stock gradually, making sure to scrape up any left over flour from the bottom of the dish along with the bouquet garni.  Bring to a slow simmer.

5.  Leave to simmer (it needs to be a gentle tremor – not a furious boil) for 2 hours with the lid on.  (I would personally recommend halving this time to avoid the meat falling away from the bone and into the sauce).

6.  Add the mushrooms and cook for a further 30 minutes with the lid off, turning the heat up slightly to thicken the sauce and intensify the flavours.

7.  Sprinkle with the tarragon and sea on with salt and pepper.

Buying Meat, did you know ….

lamb-cuts Cheap CutsResearch shows that only 17% of consumers aged between 21 and 35 have heard of common cuts of meat such as brisket, fore rib, chump and loin. Those aged between 36 and 58 did better – 68% knew what they were talking about – but they were eclipsed by 51 to 71 year-olds (yes, I’m in that age group!) who knew not only which was which, but how to cook them.

These results are not surprising when you consider that most young people’s shopping experience is confined to supermarkets where meat shelves are lined with a narrow selection of mainly prime cuts of meat. Counters are often staffed by people who lack the training or experience that the traditional butcher had to explain various meat cuts and their uses. Avoid buying meat from the supermarket and instead visit the butcher in your local farm shop.

You can save money by buying large joints (such as brisket, lamb shoulder, pork belly etc) and slow cooking (several hours) or making use of a pressure cooker (usually under an hour) to produce, succulent, tender, flavoursome meat, the leftovers with which you can make a completely different meal!

To learn how to cook cheaper (and tastier) cuts of meat, and how to confidently identify them in your Butcher’s counter: