Venison and bacon stew with orange and bay - Gill Meller

"Venison makes really good stews. I use the meat from the shoulder as it responds well to slow cooking. Its rich, dark and deep in flavor but can be lean, so I've paired it up with some sweet cured pancetta. Not only does it add volumes in terms of flavour but it also adds the necessary fat, giving you the right balance in the dish.

I love the addition of orange zest, with all its fruity perfume and fragrant oils bouncing about with the bay. This is a nice simple stew recipe that can be made days in advance. Infact, it will be all the better for it." Gill Meller, Rivercottage.net.

Serves 6 - 8

Ingredients

  • A 500g piece of pancetta or bacon cut into 3 - 4 cm cubes
  • 650 g of venison shoulder, cubed
  • 2 onions sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 6 - 8 juniper berries lightly bashed
  • The paired zest of one orange
  • Two sprigs of thyme
  • 100g of plain seasoned flour
  • 500ml of ale
  • Up to 300ml of stock or water
  • 1 Tbls of olive oil
  • Black Pepper

Method 

Place the casserole dish on a medium heat. Add a dash of Olive oil followed by the sliced onions, the garlic, bay and juniper berries. Sweat the onions, stirring as you do for   8 - 10 minutes. Meanwhile heat a dash of olive oil in a large, heavy frying pan. Gently fry the cubed bacon on all sides until it is nice and golden and the fat is well rendered. Transfer to the casserole dish, but leave the pan on the heat. Toss the venison pieces generously in the seasoned flour then fry in the same pan, in batches, transferring it to the casserole dish as soon as it is well coloured. Stir everything once or twice then pour over the ale, add enough water or stock to cover by a good couple of centimeters. Season with pepper, but not salt, as the bacon will be quite salty.

Bring to the simmer and cook, with a lid set just ajar, at a very low, tremulous simmer for 2-3 hours, until the meat is completely tender. You can cook it in a low oven (about 120C/Gas Mark 1), with a lid on, if you like. Taste the stew and adjust the seasoning before serving.