Pumpkins carved, candled and hung in and about the old yew tree like floating heads in the dark. Its Halloween & its Party Night. This ghoulish gruel of Highland Stew like the crackling fire beneath will keep the guests warm and merry through the cold night.
Deep and rich venison chunks in a meaty sauce with a hint of sweetness from the small amount of cranberry added. Served over autumn kale and a fine buttery mash potato, and eaten round a lively fire with friends and good wine. All I can say is Ghosts & Ghouls? We’re ready for you!
The Cooking Fire
We need a fire to suit your space, enough wood to keep a lively fire going at least for a couple of hours cooking maybe more if your making merry around it. Cooking this on Halloween in Scotland it was cold and dark so the main thing was light and warmth, we can then position the cast iron pot based on our cooking needs. With people comfortable first good food will always follow.
I go into further detail on our Dutch Oven Cooking How To page but essentially we are going to start with the pot near or on the embers for frying off the onions and sealing the meat then move away from the fire so the pot can gently simmer for a couple of hours around FIREMARK 4 to develop the venison’s tenderness and rich sauce.
Venison is a fantastic local lean meat, if you prefer or cannot source local venison, beef can be used instead for this recipe.
Rich and tender venison stew cooked in a dutch pot over a crackling open fire for a couple of hours. Perfect fire food for warming up a cold Halloween Night. Ingredients below will feed 4-5 people (photos above feature 2 pots cooking as I doubled everything up to feed 10).
- 1 kg Venison haunch or shoulder cut to 2cm chunks
- 400 ml red wine
- 350ml Beef Stock
- 3 Carrots chunky sliced
- 2 Onions chunky chopped (or whole shallots 300g)
- 3 Celery chunky sliced
- 1 tsp Juniper berries
- 1 tsp Pepper corns
- 2 Bay leaves
- 1 Sprig Rosemary
- 1 tsp Sea salt (taste to season add more if needed)
- 12 g Butter
- 2 tbsp Rape oil (or any other cooking oil)
- 3 tbsp Plain flour
Chunk the venison into 2cm pieces then dust with plain flour and roll about to cover the chunks. The flour will add to the browning and natural sauce thickening later.
Rough chunk the carrots, onions and celery also, 1-2cm is fine.
We need a hot Dutch Oven to start, so if legged rake some emberd to the side of the fire and place the pot on them. If using tripod or crane move the pot so it is over the heat (Firemark 2).
Add the rape oil and butter to the pot. When melted gradually drop in the venison chunks. Refrain from moving them too much, or over crowding the pan as we want to sear a nice caremalised exterior to the meat and pot. Add the onions and mix into the pot.
Move the pot to a lower heat (Firemark 4) further from the fire or embers.
Add the wine, beef stock, herbs, crushed pepper and juniper berries. Stir well, put the lid on the Dutch Oven and relax.
It's worth checking the pot every half hour, maybe give it a stir, if the fire's lively rotate the pot to the cooler side. If you can hear vigorous bubbling it's too hot, move further away from the fire. Target zone is an uncomfortably hot lid to touch but no bubbling noise- this is your pot working at optimum for casseroles and stew.
After an 1-1.5 hours taste and season with the salt, test a venison chunk, hopefully it just needs another 30 minutes, perfect time to get you tatties on and mashed if you are serving mashed potatoes with.
To serve ladle the sumptuous stew over mashed potato on boiled kale in a bowl. Build up the fire again and enjoy your fireside feast.
Perfect dish to prepare in the raw ingredients in advance, so all you have to do to cook is get your dutch oven hot over the fire and start cooking.