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Venison: I can take it or leave it.

It’s a very nutritious yet lean meat and, yes, it can taste gamy.

We had some venison for braising in the freezer, so I thawed it and decided to make something other than the usual watery casserole (ugh!).

It ended up being very tender and tasting like flavoursome beef.

This is a taste of the Mediterranean from the forest.

Churchmouse’s venison casserole

This recipe serves four people.

You will need two dinner plates for preparation and a large casserole pot with a lid for cooking.

This recipe involves operations with knives and scissors as well as hot fat, which might not be suitable for all cooks or vulnerable members of the household.

This is best served over rice.

Ingredients

Enough venison for braising for four people (approx. 1 lb or 450 g)

300ml (approx. 1 1/4 cups) pure orange juice

1 large sprig of fresh rosemary (dried equivalent will do)

2 large sprigs of fresh oregano (dried equivalent will do)

4 tbsp beef dripping (or duck fat)

3 tbsp butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 medium sized bell peppers, finely chopped — one must be a red bell pepper, for a smoky flavour

3 large cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped

60ml (1/4 cup) port or red wine

60ml (1/4 cup) white vermouth (e.g. Noilly Prat, Cinzano, Martini)

1 tbsp raspberry or balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp tomato paste (mixed with the vinegar)

Salt

Pepper

Cayenne pepper

150g (5oz) flour, seasoned with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper

Method

The meat must be marinaded 24 hours in advance.

Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F) before cooking.

1/  Remove visible sinews (silvery ‘skin’) and nerves (long white bits) with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors. Otherwise, the meat will be tough.

2/  Place the meat and the herbs in a Pyrex dish, season with salt, pepper and cayenne, then cover with orange juice. Put a lid on the dish and refrigerate for 24 hours.

3/  The next day, remove the meat from the Pyrex dish, pat dry and cut away any further sinews and nerves. Cut the meat into evenly sized cubes.

4/  Reserve the orange juice for the sauce (see below).

5/  Put 2 tbsp beef dripping (or duck fat) and 1 tbsp butter in the casserole pot and warm over medium heat until hot. Add salt, pepper and cayenne.

6/  Add the finely chopped onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent and tender. Placing a lid on the pot will help the onion cook quicker.

7/  Add the chopped bell peppers and the chopped garlic. Return the lid to the pan and cook for three minutes.

8/  While the vegetables are cooking, put 110g (4oz) of flour onto a large plate or into a plastic bag for food, add 2 tsp of salt, a dash of pepper and enough cayenne pepper to taste. Place the cubed venison into it and toss (plate) or shake (bag) until well blended. Put to one side afterwards.

9/  Remove the sautéed vegetables from the pot onto a large dinner plate. Add 2 tbsp beef dripping (or duck fat) and 1 tbsp of butter. Allow to warm up over medium heat.

10/ When the fat is sizzling, place the floured venison cubes evenly in the pan. This might take three separate goes, as the meat must be evenly spaced. Not all of the meat will fit into the pot at one time. I did mine in three turns.

11/ When the meat is browned on one side — after three minutes — turn over to brown on the other.

12/ Remove the meat and place onto a dinner plate. Repeat steps 10 and 11 and this step for the rest of the meat until it is all browned and on the dinner plate.

13/ To make the sauce, place 1 tbsp of butter and 40g (1oz) of flour into the casserole pot. Stir until browned and well incorporated. Season again with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste.

14/ Add the raspberry or balsamic vinegar, mixed with the tomato paste. Stir again.

15/ Add the port (or red wine) and stir well until smooth.

16/ Add the white vermouth and stir well until smooth.

17/ Add the orange juice from the marinade gradually — three additions work well — stirring thoroughly after each one. This is the sauce for your venison casserole. Add the meat and the vegetables. Stir until everything is mixed together. Add another sprig of rosemary and oregano, if you like.

18/ Place a lid on the casserole pot and put into the preheated oven for 1 hour.

19/ Turn the oven off and leave for another hour.

20/ If you need to reheat before serving, do so at 100°C (200ºF) for 20 minutes. Check beforehand to see if you need to add a bit of water to cut the thickness of the casserole. If so, stir well before reheating.

21/ Remove the herbs from the pot. Serve the casserole over buttered, seasoned rice.

22/ You can reheat any leftovers the following day on a very low heat on top of the stove for 15 or 20 minutes.

The venison will be fork-tender and taste like beef. The vegetables will have melted into the sauce.

This is the dish for people who are not that keen on venison — or vegetables. It’s a win-win all around, even during the summer months.

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