VENISON AND MUSHROOM STEW
Seasonal, hearty and incredibly versatile, this venison stew is a one-pot wonder that you’ll want to keep going back to, writes Victoria Holtam
A tasty one-pot winter warmer that is seasonal and healthy
One of the great things about spending time in the countryside is having access to some simply wonderful wild food. My husband regularly turns up with a fallow deer or two in the back of the truck at this time of year, giving us a glut of meat that lasts through the winter. A hearty stew is a great way to use up the tougher cuts, such as the shoulder, and venison has a rich, earthy flavour that works brilliantly with the mushrooms that can be foraged in the fields and woods. Field mushrooms, parasols and horse mushrooms all work brilliantly in this dish. But remember – never pick or eat wild fungi unless you are 100 per cent sure of your identification!! If you want to give things a bit of a festive twist, cooked, peeled chestnuts add a little sweetness and contrast the salty bacon lardons.
I’ve used beef stock, port, red wine and even just water to make the braising liquor in the past but a good hearty ale works really well. I always think that part of the appeal of a seasonal stew should be versatility – so feel free to add favourite seasonings or alternative ingredients.
Serve simply with a good loaf of crusty bread to mop up the juices or with lashings of fluffy mashed potatoes if you want to make a more luxurious meal of it. For a true one-pot version, you can cook whole new potatoes in the braising liquor which suck up the juices as they slowly cook, and taste marvellous! It’ll even work as a pie with a simple puff pastry lid.
Leftovers keep well, with the taste often improving after a day or two in the fridge, and this stew also freezes brilliantly so we often cook up an extra large batch and keep some stashed for an easy supper. Many butchers and some supermarkets will stock venison (either farmed or wild) year round but this recipe works just fine with traditional stewing cuts of beef. And if you aren’t confident enough to source wild mushrooms then shop-bought chestnut mushrooms can be substituted.