Venison and Bramble Stew

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

Olive oil

1 large onion

4 carrots

3 sticks of celery

2 bay leaves

550ml beef stock

200g blackberries

2-3 tblspn honey

Seasoning

  • 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!

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25 thoughts on “Venison and Bramble Stew

  1. I was just talking with my sister yesterday (who had gone hunting for the first time on Monday) about how must I was craving venison. I grew up eating it so I just love it and now that I live in the City I don’t get it.

    Yes, stew makes not for a beautiful photo.

  2. I have my own ‘philosophy’ of meat eating… For me, it’s important that the animals live a good life before butchered and all.

    I love venison. Really. It has such a lovely flavor which I love. I was surprised to know that it wasn’t too heavy when I first tried it.

    Your dish looks excellent. But it’s kinda hard to get venison here in Oz, unless I travel a bit.

  3. I agree completely! Deer are a big problom in the states where we used to live… They actually bring in the military to cull the herd (’cause hunting is soooo yesterday!)
    I love venison and wish I could get it here. My nephew used to give me a deer in the fall…

  4. Eating and hunting for game is natural for humans, or should I say used to be natural. I have nothing against it, as long as it’s done sensibly and ethically, and the game is eaten afterwards. I loathe killing game for the sake of killing only.

    I’ve had venison with redcurrant and cranberry, and I loved it. I think venison and brambles are a fantastic combination, too. The rich full flavour of venison combines wonderfully with the sweet tartness of the bramble. Yum!

    If you like venison, I have a great Croatian recipe for venison on my blog – Venison Stew Hunter’s Style – that you might like. Venison is cooked with white wine, lemon and herbs, and served with (often homemade) egg tagliatele-like pasta; it’s food for special occasions. This is my mum’s and grandma’s recipe, and one of my favourite foods. We prepare hare and pheasant in this way, too.

  5. Yes, brambles and venison seem a natural combination. I’m on the fence about the deer. Everything you said makes perfect sense intellectually. I know that and I have no problem with it. But we have our own personal wild herd here that have become like friends haha. One is called funny face because she has a googly eyed expression. She will walk right up to me. I know which mother’s have which babies. One mother has twins and the other had 4, yes 4! Deer CAN have 4 babies! I also rescued a fawn from a dog. My point is, I’m getting rather attached and couldn’t kill one myself. Whenever we have any kind of meat, we say a prayer of thanks for the life that animal gave. Meat tastes good and is fine to eat with a portion of gratitude and thought. Important for me to remember is that one animal isn’t above another on the food chain just because we give it human characteristics. Did I ramble? haha But I would eat that delicious stew, Wendy..and be thankful for it.

  6. Shayne – It has a very distinctive taste, doesn’t it? I get cravings for it too but pretty much all the local butchers stock it. Lucky me. 🙂

    Anh – My philosophy is your exactly. 🙂

    KatieZ – The military? Good grief! Our deer numbers aren’t that bad! 😉

    Magic Cochin – Let me know how it goes!

    Maninas – Totally agree. And I will certainly be trying out your venison recipe. Can’t have enough!

    Maryann – Did you ramble? Yes. Did I totally understand everything you said? Of course. And agree? Most definitely. 🙂
    Your deer friends sounds lovely.

    Truffle – Thank you! I sometimes crave stew in warm weather too! Not sensible but it just happens.

  7. My take on eating meat is that I would only eat animals that I think did not suffer while they were alive. If the deers have been able to roam free and killed instantly, then I will eat it.

    I wish I had a local butcher who hunts the animals that he sells!

    Stews are not the most photogenic dish, but yours still looks very comforting.

  8. Wendy I agree, I lived in an area of the US where we were being overrun with deer populations. They were eating the forest down to nothing and where in their own right starting to starve because of the over population. So I feel as long as it is handled correctly and done humanley then hunting is okay. But just to hunt and kill and not use the meat then I disagree with hunting and especially when it is with endangered species.
    I find too that sometimes my dishes don’t look very appetizing, but yet the flavour is something to savour. I also think some photos are made up to look nice…. I have heard of some very weird ingredients for photo shoots just to make the food look appetizing. Would prefer something edible. Your stew looks and sounds yummy!!!

  9. This sounds absolutely phenomenal! It’s something I absolutely must try – I’m going to do everything I can to find some venison that isn’t $25 a pound. Occasionally I do break down and get the expensive stuff, only because I love it so. This recipe looks as though it justifies the expense, but hopefully the venison man will be at the Saturday market. No deer to hunt in central park, alas.

  10. Hi Wendy – The Venison and Bramble Stew was delicious. Our slight variation used celeriac instead of the carrots in the stew. And we served it with oven roast veg (sweet potatoes/carrots/parsnips) and savoy cabbage and leeks.
    Perfect!

    Celia

  11. Nora – I’d like to think that too but I know that with hunting death can’t always be instantaneous or painless. However, the animal is put through far less stress before death than most farmed animals.

    Pat – Totally agree. Especially with the last comment. Why do people put massive bits of inedible herbs on dishes. Like sprigs of rosemary – a delicious herb but you can’t nibble on it!

    Amanda – $25 a pound?? I’m under pressure!!!!! Rat might work…

    Celia – Delighted you tried it and liked it! Genius idea with celeriac.

  12. I have no problem with venison, but cannot get it in this part of the states. When living in Ohio, we had the same problem with the population of deer. So when a friend of mine would go hunting, I was lucky to be on the recipient list. He would hunt in the morning, butcher in the late afternoon and arrive on my doorstep late that night with the fresh meat. I would prepare the next day. I did mine with a cherry sauce. I must say, excellent! Yours sound delicious!

  13. I love the sounds of this. On Friday night I had grouse served with a blackberry sauce at a restaurant – this also worked brilliantly. The tang of the blackberries really cut through the rich gameyness of the meat. And how I love a stew at this time of year, photogenic or not. Time to get stewing…

  14. Now this is right up my street! Top recipe. Brambles of course are perfect with game but to put them in the same stew is a touch on genius. I think. Anyway, I like it.

    Cheers
    David

  15. The concept of “brambles” doesn’t really exist here in the Philippines, so I was having a difficult time picturing venison with (er) prickly, tough vines! 🙂 I wouldn’t have a problem eating deer, except that it might be a little gamey, but stew would be the perfect way to cook it!

    I agree stew is tough to photograph– I think dark stews go well in dark bowls, they make them look “rustic” and “earthy.” 🙂

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