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Rich Venison Stew with Apricots and Juniper

 Slowly stewed venison shoulder cubes in red wine with apricots, cloves and juniper. 

Serves: 4

1kg shoulder venison, shoulder is the best, cut into 2" cubes
1 tbsp veg oil or beef dripping
2 large onions, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into small cubes
400g belly pork
10 cloves
10 juniper berries, lightly crushed
1 sprig of rosemary
3 bay leaves
2½ tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp tomato puree
254mls half pint dry, full bodied red wine
500mls strong venison or game stock
2 tbsp clear honey
12 semi dried apricots, chopped into quarters
salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Pre heat the oven to Gas 3, 160°C.
  • Season the venison well with salt and pepper and brown well in the vegetable oil or dripping.
  • I use a cast iron casserole to brown and cook this dish in, then all the goodness stays in the pan.
  • When browned remove the meat from the pan.
  • Add the onions and diced carrot and cook until they have a nice brown and caramelized colour to them. When cooked remove them also.
  • Sauté the bacon or pork with the cloves, juniper, rosemary and bay together in the pan to release their flavours, but do not let them burn.
  • Once browned, add the flour and tomato paste and stir well, it’s quite good to let the flour catch a little, I think it adds flavour and colour to the whole stew.
  • Stir in the red wine and the beef stock and bring to the boil, slowly.
  • When just simmering add the honey and apricots and season well with salt and pepper.
  • Cover with a tight fitting lid and place in the pre heated oven, and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes. the stew must cook very slowly in the oven or it will dry out and toughen. It’s a very important point.
  • Once the venison has been cooking for 1 hour 45 minutes, remove very carefully from the oven and take off the lid. The aroma is fantastic.
  • Check the meat is soft and juicy, it will fall apart when gently squeezed when ready, if it is still a little tough then pop back into the oven for a further 20-30 minutes.
  • When the stew is finally cooked cover and leave to cool for a good half an hour, covered. If the stew is too hot you really cannot eat or enjoy it.
  • The best way to serve this dish is to just pop the whole thing in the middle of the table and let people help themselves.
  • Venison is a very rich meat and a little goes a long way, so don’t be surprised if you feed six people from this.
  • A large bowl of lightly cooked broccoli tossed in a little unsalted butter and a bowl of mash are all you need with this, and of course, a large glass of Shiraz.

Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 1 3/4 hours


Copyright Phil Vickery
September 2008


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