Autumn finally decided to creep out from behind the shade of the beach umbrellas and tiptoe into the limelight of falling leaves and cooler, darker evenings.
The duvet finally came out.
Over the past week the temperatures have dropped; especially noticeable at night time and early morning. Autumn has made a proper appearance and it doesn’t feel as if it’s going anywhere in a rush.
So what does this mean in terms of the kitchen and the food we eat? If we are trying to eat seasonal it means that there are some great opportunities to be had with game at this time of year. Venison steaks with blackcurrants and blackberries is absolutely delicious as is the one pot dish of duck magret with cannellini beans.
But I’m not after something that will be a quick flash in the pan; on these cooler, darker evenings nothing calls out to me as much as a hearty venison stew.
The great thing about a stew is that it’s a chance for you to experiment with cheaper cuts of meat that are packed full of flavour that you might not be accustomed to using, however they will generally need longer, slower cooking on the hob or in the oven. If you’re not pushed for time putting a stew together can be very liberating as there are no measures or rules you must adhere to – it’s go with the flow time.
This is what I do but is by no means a recipe that you need to follow – most of the ingredients are optional and you can substitute them for those you prefer.
I use diced venison dredged in seasoned flour and coloured in the pan. Then fry onions in the meaty juices at the bottom of the pan (you may need to add more butter). Deglaze the pan with red wine or port and then add the diced venison back into the pan. Add potatoes and top with either or a combination of the three: water/beef stock/tinned tomatoes. Chop mushrooms into quarters and add to the pot. Make sure to season well, add oregano and bay leaves and chilli flakes for added warmth. Chop a couple of carrots lengthways and place into the pot. Bring to the boil on the hob and then put into a low oven 160˚C for 2 hours. After two hours fish out the carrots and add green beans. Let the beans cook in the residual heat of the stew.
Cook’s treat: sprinkle sea-salt and drizzle olive oil over the carrots and have as a sneaky treat before serving everyone else!
But the best thing about a stew is that with whatever is leftover you could always turn it into a pie the following day.
Either use shop bought pastry or make your own shortcrust pastry.
Line a tart tin and bake blind in the oven. Remove your baking beads/pulses and egg wash the base – baking for a further few minutes until golden. The reason for this being that the egg wash will prevent your pie from having a soggy bottom. No one likes a soggy bottom!
Chop the potatoes into smaller pieces and add as much leftover stew as you dare. Then top the pie with either a full cover (make sure to leave some vent holes for the steam to escape) or create a simple lattice pattern over the top. If the idea of having to make a pie is scaring you, a pasty might be easier but I would use ready-rolled, shop bought puff pastry for this.
If however, the thought of having to eat the same again is putting you off giving this a go remember that stews freeze very well. I would fish out the beans and potatoes before freezing and probably serve this with fresh veg and mash next time!
Perfect for Bonfire’s Night to be eaten outside watching the fireworks…