Venison Casserole, Madeira, Chestnuts & Mushrooms (Serves 4)

This casserole is perfect on a cold winters night – the rich Madeira sauce is the epitome of comfort! I like to serve it with a Purée of Potato and Celeriac to soak up all the beautiful sauce (recipe here). This is certainly a dish that is good enough to serve to guests, and the really good news is that it freezes particularly well so you can always make it in advance. Simple but impressive – my kind of dish!

This is a recipe from Delia Smith, so like all of her recipes, it is almost foolproof!

900g venison shoulder, cubed

225g cubetti di pancetta

200g cooked, peeled whole chestnuts

20g dried porcini mushrooms (rinsed, any large bits broken up)

570ml Madeira wine

2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 onions, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, sliced

175g chestnut mushrooms, halved if large

1 rounded tablespoon plain flour (gluten free if required)

A few sprigs of thyme

2 bay leaves

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large casserole dish, when hot, add the onions, cook for 5-7 minutes until dark and caramelised. Then add the garlic and cook for a further minute or so, before removing them all to a plate.
  2. Next add the pancetta to the casserole and cook until golden, remove these to join the onions on the plate.
  3. Now add the rest of the olive oil and brown the venison in batches – don’t overcrowd the pan. Remove each batch to join the onions and pancetta.
  4. Finally, add the fresh mushrooms to the casserole and toss in the hots juices for another minute or so, then return the venison, pancetta and onions to join them in the pan. Stir well, adding a seasoning of salt and pepper and the flour.
  5. Gradually add the Madeira, stirring. Then add the thyme, bay leaves, chestnut and dried porcini.
  6. Bring to simmering point, cover and place in a preheated oven, 140’c fan, cook for 2½ hours.
  7. Serve with either Purée of Potato and Celeriac with Garlic or Mashed Potato (recipes here).

(If freezing: when cold transfer to a plastic container and freeze till needed. Defrost at room temperature and reheat in a preheated oven, 180’c, for 35-40 minutes)

Venison Mince with Celeriac Mash (Serves 4)

This is a great midweek dinner, warming and tasty. The venison gives this mince dish a lovely rich flavour, whilst the addition of redcurrant jelly lends a subtle sweetness which is complemented beautifully by the roughly mashed celeriac. This is a recipe which I have taken from Tom Aikens cookbook, ‘Tom Aikens Cooking’ – although he is a Michelin starred chef, this is a very simple recipe!

These days it is easy to buy venison from your butcher – just ask him to mince it for you (diced shoulder is the best cut for this).

400g venison mince

150ml olive oil

25g unsalted butter

3 carrots, peeled and diced small

2 onions, peeled and diced small

2-3 cloves garlic, sliced

150g button mushrooms, sliced

1 rounded tablespoon plain flour (gluten free if required)

2 level tablespoons of tomato purée

200ml chicken stock

200ml red wine

40g redcurrant jelly

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon each of chopped parsley, thyme and sage

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Place a casserole over a medium heat, add the oil , when hot add the mince and season with salt and pepper. Brown in the pan for about 5 minutes. Tip the mince into a colander with a bowl underneath to catch the juices.
  2. Place the casserole back over the heat and return the drained juices to the pan with the butter. Cook the carrot for 5 minutes then add the onion and garlic and cook for a further 5-7 minutes until golden. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes.
  3. Return the mince to the casserole, add the flour stirring well and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato purée and cook for a minute, then add the stock, red wine, redcurrant jelly, bay leaf and fresh herbs.
  4. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring now and again.
  5. Serve with the celeriac mash (recipe here).

Roast Pheasant Breast, Whisky & Peppercorn Sauce (Serves 4)

If you have never cooked pheasant before, I urge you to cook this recipe, it is super easy. Pheasant meat can easily dry out during cooking, but by cooking bird whole and then removing the breasts, the meat remains juicy. I like to serve this with buttered savoy cabbage and roast potatoes (recipes here)

2 pheasants

1 onion cut into 4 wedges

Small bunch of thyme

40g butter, softened

800ml chicken stock

150ml whisky

300ml whipping cream

3 teaspoons finely chopped green peppercorns

1 tablespoon finely chopped flat leaf parsley

  1. Place the pheasants in a roasting tin large enough to have at least 4 cm between them. Stuff each cavity with a wedge of onion and a few sprigs of thyme. Smear the butter over the breasts and legs and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Roast in a preheated oven, 190’c fan, for 45 minutes, basting twice during cooking.
  3. While the pheasants are roasting,  pour the stock into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce by a third – you need about 500ml.
  4. Pour the whisky into a large frying pan, warm through and then carefully light with a match – flambé to allow the alcohol to burn off. Pour in the reduced stock, followed by the cream and leave the sauce to simmer gently until it is reduced and just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Finally stir in the chopped peppercorns and check the seasoning.
  5. Meanwhile when the pheasants are cooked, cover with foil and leave to rest for 10-15minutes.
  6. To remove the breasts from the bone, carefully run a sharp knife down one side of the breastbone and ease off the whole breast.
  7. Place each breast on a plate, sprinkle with the chopped parsley and pour over the whiskey and peppercorn sauce, and serve with buttered cabbage and roast potatoes. (as you will notice from the photo, I often place the legs on the plates too, more for decoration than for taste as there isn’t much meat on them).