venison stew

told a few people at a work lunch about the lack of evidence for saturated fat being responsible for heart disease. i was careful not to talk about cause and effect - i just said there seems to be little evidence. silence and blank stares all around, as i've said that i secretly like roasting babies for breakfast. so while i tucked into some pork belly and calves liver, they were clearly picturing defibrillators and cardio wards, i am certain of it. (i find it particularly hard breaking the news to vegetarians - it's like telling children that santa doesn't exist.) to be fair, it's not like i'm advocating an atkins-style orgy of meat and cream. the reality is that we put away so many vegetables that, as i might have said before, the greengrocer down the road probably thinks we have a couple of super-healthy (and super-unfussy) kids we keep locked up at home.

anyway, i made another 3-day stew: a day to marinate, a day to cook and a day to eat. this time, we had venison from farmers' market. it's pretty cheap buying chunks for stewing but you do need to cook them for ages for the meat to go tender. i added some chocolate to it (you can see the grated stuff in the first photo), after the pork experiment, and a chilli. the recipe is yet again a bastardised version of a couple of things i found online. to be honest, you can't go very wrong with a stew whatever you put in it, as long as you observe a few basic rules: marinate the meat if possible, use the basics as if for soup like onions, carrots and leeks before you start adding anything exotic, and cook for ages on low heat. i put in a small kohlrabi and another couple of carrots before cooking but i don't think you really need them, so i've omitted them from the recipe below.

this ended up being amazing. it smelt and tasted of chocolate and not in a subtle way - but instead of being a distraction (chocolate = sweets, usually), it seriously enhanced the flavour of the meat. i did worry slightly when i realised i actually have no idea how carb-heavy pure chocolate is. but i think its carb content is negligible considering the amount used, as long as it's the stuff with no sugar added. i think you could easily do this without the chocolate too.

i cooked the stew in the oven for a couple of hours (on 150C) and there simmered it on very low heat on the hob for the last hour. i think you can do either - i usually find it easier to just chuck it in the oven and forget about it - though you should probably have a look after a couple of hours to make sure it's not getting too dry.

for three (2 with a bowl left over for breakfast)

500g venison, cut into chunks
2 small leeks, finely sliced
2 carrots, finely sliced
1 onion, finely sliced
1 sprig rosemary
a couple of sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
2 dried chillies
1 tbs coriander seeds, ground
1 bottle of decent red wine
100ml sherry vinegar
80g 100% chocolate

put the venison in a bowl with the leeks, onions, carrots, coriander, herbs, chillies, red wine and vinegar. leave for at least 12 hours - i left it for 24.

the proper way of doing the next step is to fry off the venison chunks in small batches first, to brown them, and then fry the veg separately before combining the two. i couldn't be bothered to do this (i rarely find the browning makes much difference apart from making the meat look nicer) so i chucked it all in together, with a bit of olive oil and seasoning, added the chocolate and put it in the oven at 150C for 2 hours. it does need about 3 hours to cook so you can either leave it in the oven or finish it off on the hob - especially if the sauce needs reducing.

all we had with it was a bit of lettuce.


  1. Don't worry - good quality chocolate (i.e. 80% cocoa solids and above) will not be carb heavy. And it won't be full of sugar either. Just the rich tasty goodness of the wonderful bean...aaaaahhhh, chocolate-y!

  2. well, it's all relative, i suppose. i reckon 100% chocolate will probably still has 20(ish) per cent carbs per 100g. which is not a lot. but it's a lot more than 1g that something like asparagus will have per 100g. so, like sweet potatoes, squash, etc - not for everyday consumption!


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