A Casserole of Venison with Sour Cherries, Dried Apricots, Red Currants and Herbs…

I have, on my chopping board in the kitchen, what purports to be 900g of diced venison. Highland Game brand, from Sainsbury’s – deeply unimpressed and I posted an unfavourable review. Be interesting to see if it’s published.

I say purports because it’s sure as hell not diced, just randomly hacked up – I’ve seen better-presented roadkill. And some of it is mush, as if it’s been dragged off the hill behind a Land Rover (rather than farmed, which is what is actually is). I spent an unseemly amount of time surgically removing skin and connective tissue and generally making it eatable. Why the hell people with absolutely no knife skills are employed to prep meat I shall never know. Well, OK, there are, doubtless, more people without the requisite skills than with, so, here’s a thought – train the buggers if you have to. And that applies to all supermarkets, not just Highland Game.

Aside from its poor appearance, despite being soaked in cold water, packed into towels and wrung out (no, that didn’t make it mushy – it already was), it released an awful lot of blood when browned. Which went into the pot – no point in wasting all that flavour.

In future I’d buy venison steaks and cut them up myself – at least I can see what I’m getting that way, even if it might cost more.



900g venison, as above or, better, the same weight in venison steaks

400g pack Echalion shallots. quartered lengthways and thickly sliced

4 Sweet Spear carrot batons (fat ones if you can – Sweet Spear can be quite thin – cut into 2 or 3 centimetre lengths then quartered; if thin, halve them and use more carrots)

Half a decent-sized swede, also cut into batons (obviously swedes are a less obliging shape, so don’t strive for perfection)

50g clarified butter

1 354g jar Crespo pitted black olives, drained and well rinsed (yields 160g of olives)

2 generous tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons dried thyme

6 to 10 dried apricots, chopped, depending on the size and how much sweetness you like


About a dozen organic Deglet Nour dates, if you can find them (I can’t), each cut into 3 pieces

100g pack organic Mixed Cherries

50g organic Sour Cherries

5 tablespoons Knorr Touch of Taste Chicken

3 tablespoons Ditto, Beef

2 tablespoons Ditto, Vegetable – adjust all three to taste later

Or add

2 Kallo organic vegetable stock cubes and a little Marigold Bouillon Powder to taste

100g redcurrants or blackcurrants, or a mix of both (frozen are fine if defrosted), added right at the end (Optional)

Maldon Sea Salt flakes and Schwartz fine black pepper, to taste

NB: Might not need salt. Check and adjust Touch of Taste/Kallo/Marigold items first

A little extra-virgin olive oil, for browning the meat


Method (makes 4 litres):-

Really very easy. Do all your veg prep first, while browning the meat in a little olive oil, in batches, and set aside in a deep plate or a small bowl to catch any juices – add those to the pot. The olives can be chopped or left whole as you wish – I leave them whole.

Then sweat off the shallots in the melted butter until soft but not coloured. Add everything else down to, and including, the Touch of Taste Vegetable, adding enough boiling water to cover.

Stir, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Leave to cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are cooked. The venison pack says it takes a couple of hours – that seems a long time since its already partially cooked by browning it, so check it as well, allowing it to carry on cooking if the meat needs it. No-one ever came to any harm from over-cooked carrots, though Nigella can be a bit of a drama queen about them!

You’ll have to top up the water a couple times, as the dried fruit absorbs quite a lot. By the time it’s finished the total volume will be up to 4 litres. You can make less, of course, or more should the urge take you – just scale the ingredients up or down as needed.

When everything is cooked to your satisfaction, taste it – careful, it’s hot! – and adjust the flavouring first, then the seasoning, if it needs either. It’ll benefit from pepper – the rest is down to personal taste (I’ve added 2 Kallo veg cubes at the time of posting this).

That done, allow to go cold, and refrigerate overnight, to allow the various flavours a chance to snuggle up and get to know each other – you’ll thank them for it…

Note: To thicken the dish next day, gently press a medium-sized metal sieve (a nylon sieve is too flexible), into the surface, and bail out the liquid from within it with a ladle or cup into a smaller pan (I find US measuring cups ideal for this sort of task). Bring up to just before boiling point, reduce the heat, and whisk in three good tablespoons of plain flour (I use bread flour as it has less of a tendency to go lumpy). Whisk vigorously until all the flour is amalgamated, then turn up the heat, continuing to whisk as it thickens (pay particular attention to the bottom of the pan).

While doing that, have the main pot on a medium heat so that by the time the thickened sauce is ready, it’s hot, then combine the two, stir well, but gently (you don’t want it to break up), then bring the whole pot to the boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook out for about 10 minutes. Any remaining visible lumps will dissolve during this stage if using bread flour.

Add the red and black currants if using (they just need to warm up in the residual heat), and you’re done.

NB: I don’t usually thicken casseroles destined, like this one, for the freezer. I just stir a couple of teaspoons of Smash into a portion while reheating. Gets the job done.


As casseroles go, it’s quite rich, so I tend to serve dishes like this simply with buttery mashed potato.

Now then, Spoonie rating. As made today, I’m afraid it gets 4 spoons (and I’m feeling every one!).

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But use venison steaks and you can knock one off which makes it more realistic.

Add the red and black currants if using (they just need to warm up in the residual heat), and you’re done.