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

Canal Boat - - Diary - 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.

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