Ingredients for my Christmas Venison Casserole-cum-Pie Filling…

My reasons for writing this recipe in potentia are two-fold – as an aide-memoire, converting it to a finished recipe as I cook it and, also, as an incentive to get out in the kitchen and get on with it – which would be easier if I felt better. I’ve finally got my increased dose of morphine – it’s not enough! If the pain is any indicator, the circulation in my right leg is shutting down – I need to ask the nurses if they can find a way to check that without making matters worse.

Anyway, whenever it happens, this will be frozen in portions so it can be used as either pie filling or casserole, depending on how well I’m feeling on the day.

There will be:-

Venison, of course – diced venison steaks, about 500g. You can buy diced venison from many supermarkets but like most of their diced meat you’re likely to find it just randomly hacked to ragged pieces – for which disservice you will pay a premium. So buy steaks or, hell, if you’re making a lot, buy a joint, as I do with lamb and, either way, dice them yourself. And if you buy a joint bone-in, roast the bone if you’re using the oven already (if not, brush it with oil and brown it well under the grill), and pop it in the pot with the meat – it’ll contribute quite a bit of flavour.

Pig liver and sausage meat meatballs (if I’m well) – if not, I’ll skin, break up, and fry some good pork sausages, cut the liver into bite-size chunks and add both to the pot. Or just double the venison instead, but I like the contrast of flavours and textures.

Alliums – Echalion shallots, cooking onions, a touch of dried leek (and I do mean a touch – it’s quite intense), or you can use the white parts of a couple of baby leeks, thinly sliced.

Root vegetables – carrots, swede, celeriac.

Aromatics – Clementine zest, parsley stalks (remove when finished), fresh rosemary, dried thyme (cos I forgot to buy fresh but it doesn’t matter**), several whole, peeled, garlic cloves (fish out at the end, mash with a little stock and stir back in – this will give you just a hint of garlic – it won’t leap out and bite you!).

**Last time I used fresh rosemary, a couple of weeks ago, it tasted of very little so, this time, I’m going to finely chop it, add to it the dried thyme (which, if there’s any fat in a casserole, can remain spiky), and let them soak in a little barely warm water, before blitzing to a purée – this can be added until the requisite depth of flavour has been achieved – pour it through a fine sieve to hold back any rough bits of thyme that remain. I’ve used this technique before. It works very well, not least because you can make a second batch if you need to. Just remember – you can always add more – you can’t take it out.

For depth – Rich soy sauce, a little HP Sauce, a bag of oniony beef gravy from the freezer (optional), a splash of sweet sherry. Yep – I know dry is more usual but sweet, a pale cream (not the varnish-brown stuff that’s been in the cupboard under the sink for five years and now contains a mysterious, drowned, spider!), works well too. I’ve decided against the IPA – beer is a tad too dominant for my tastes.

Fruits and nuts – a mix of sour and sweet cherries, a few dried apricots, cut into small shards, a handful of dates, and some vacuum-packed cooked chestnuts, halved (for another texture) caramelised in a little clarified butter first, if I feel up to it.

The aim is to make this with sufficiently diverse ingredients, in enough quantity, to obviate the need for stock cubes. For that reason, water will be kept to a minimum. It should be naturally rich, with big flavours

As I said earlier, there’s no need to economise on food at Christmas if you have a freezer – you can started stocking up a month or two, or even three, in advance if you need to though, to be honest, apart from the venison and the chestnuts, there is nothing on this list I don’t always have in stock, so the additional cost is minimal. And now I’m not allowed to drink I fully intend to indulge myself with food (I realised today that my backup freezer already has a load of portioned venison casserole stashed in it, put up on October 21 – must get some eaten).

So far I’ve made two attempts to make this, yesterday and again today – and crashed in flames both times before I even started.

Last chance tomorrow…