Some people can be squeamish about eating deer. Put a vension steak in front of them and they immediately think of Bambi and his family: soft-eyed gentle creatures frolicking with their bunny pals. And I get that. Deer are unspeakably lovely animals. In my part of the world it’s not an unusual sight to spot a herd grazing peacefully on a hill top; or the white bob of a startled doe’s tail as she disappears shyly into the woods; or a stag leaping effortlessly over a hostile fence.
These aren’t unusual sights in the Highlands because there are A LOT of deer up here! So many, in fact, that their numbers are environmentally problematic and for the good of other species, rural life and the deer population itself the numbers have to be controlled. Add to this the knowledge that, until their deaths, these wild creatures live their lives on the open hills and the fact that this is truly local produce and I think we are talking about some seriously ethical meat eating. Are we not?
Agree or disagree? Tell me. I’m always happy to be proved wrong. (Hmmmm. D just fell of his seat laughing at that last comment…)
Anyway. I’d been thinking about the matching of venison and brambles for a while. They seem so right together! Not only are both very autumny, they are also local foods. The brambles I picked down by the canal and the venison I bought from a local butcher who hunts the animals himself. As mentioned in my last post, this dish was pure experiment but I was very pleased with the results: a gamey, tangy, nourishing stew.
Obviously, the vegetables can be swapped with whatever you have in the cupboard. Carrots and celery were in mine. 🙂
Venison and Bramble Stew
(serves 4 with mashed potato)
500g venison stewing steak
5 juniper berries, crushed
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tblspn plain flour
1 large onion
3 sticks of celery
2 bay leaves
550ml beef stock
2-3 tblspn honey
- Mix the crushed juniper berries and garlic with the flour. Season well and use to coat the venison.
- Warm a good glug of olive oil and a knob of butter in a large pan over a med-high heat. Add the meat and fry until browned. Remove the meat from the pan.
- Add the chopped onion to the pan and saute for 5 mins. Add the rest of the vegetables and saute for 5 mins more.
- Return the meat (and any juices) back to the pan along with the bay leaves and the stock. Stir well.
- Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer very gently for 3 hours.
- Meanwhile, in a separate pan heat the berries with 10ml of water until the juices are released (about 5 mins). Mash up then strain through a sieve. Discard the pips etc but reserve the juice.
- Once the stew has been simmering for three hours add the bramble juice and stir. Cook for another 30 minutes.
- Add the honey and stir until it has melted into the stew. Season with lots of black pepper.
- Serve on a big dollop of mashed potatoes.
PS Stew does not photograph well!