Monday, October 23, 2006

Venison for the Vegetarian

When I first met my friend Darren he was a confirmed vegetarian. Well I say 'confirmed' although that is patently not the case. He first turned to the veggie side for love - not of green matter but of a girl. However, dating and then being married to the gorgeous Goody have turned his tastebuds again and love has returned him to am omnivorous state.

I now take great amusement in cooking meat for him and so used D and G's company as an opportunity to cook a venison casserole.

Venison is the only red meat that I eat - not only is it the healthiest (low in cholesterol and fat) but it is the only meat not to race through my troubled stomach, leaving a trail of intestinal devastation in its wake. Casseroling meat is such a gorgeous method to cook it - the flavours have an opportunity to melt and mingle and the fibres of the meat have time to tenderise into silky morsels. Casseroles are even better when reheated and so they are the perfect dish when entertaining - all the hard work has already been taken care of leaving you to enjoy your friends and the wine.

Venison and Pink Peppercorn Casserole
400g venison steak, cubed
olive oil
2 banana shallots, peeled and finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
200g crimini mushrooms, wiped clean
red wine
tomato ketchup
dried oregano
pink peppercorns
chunk of dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees centigrade.
First remove any traces of fat or sinew from the venison. Put a few spoons of cornflour in a food bag, toss in the meat and shake it about to evenly cover the meat.
Heat a good slug of oil in a casserole and then brown the meat. Remove when evenly coloured (don't skimp on this bit - it is so important to brown meat well to seal in the flavour).
Add a little more oil then tip in the onion and garlic. Fry until soft.
Throw in the mushrooms, chopping larger ones in half and also chuck the meat back into the dish.
Pour in enough red wine to cover the meat, add a good sized squeeze of ketchup (I know it sounds odd but it really adds to the flavour), a sprinkling of dried oregano (for no other reason than it's all I had to hand but it works), and a large sprinkling of pink peppercorns - roughly two or three tablespoons.
Bring to the boil, stirring well, season with a touch of salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Pop the lid on the pot and then put it in the oven for 1 1/4 hours if you are going to reheat the dish, else cook for 11/2 - 13/4 hours.

And the chocolate? At the end of cooking, break in the chocolate and stir it until it melts. It adds to the depth of the flavour and shouldn't all good meals end with chocolate?

(sorry - we gobbled it up before I remembered to take a picture!)

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