Venison, root vegetable and stout stew… and navigating a camp kitchen

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Our recent trip to NZ had very slight undertones (subtle as a slap in the face with a wet fish) of cooking and/or eating whatever local produce the frozen, undulating, sheep dotted, river covered landscape could offer.

This day we were making our way back to Methven, and the company of our good friends Troppo and Lexi (real names), and we thought it pretty fit that we should cook them a nice hearty, vegetable laden dinner as fresh produce was damn expensive up this way and, well, if there’s one thing you need to be able to afford in this kind of weather it is not fresh vegetables, it is booze – Jesus’s little gift to us to help us stay warm in the cold.

About that dinner.

We finally stumbled on a wee little farmers market in a little sea side town on the east coast, at which one vendor was able to provide us with his home-grown yams, carrots and broccoli, and he was also selling the biggest fricking jerusalem artichokes I’ve ever seen. So big, in fact, I could not even recognise them. When I queried what the name of this strange, palm sized, Anakins-head-when-he-was-crawling-out-of-the-lava looking tuber may have been, the old farmer told me that it was indeed called Jerusalem artichoke and it was grown by another older gentleman up the road (points over shoulder).

“Indeed”, I remarked. “Well I will need to take a couple of those”.

The farmer then packed my produce up for me, I paid him the required toll and we were on our way.

We picked up some Dunedin venison and a bottle of stout from the peeps at Panhead Brewery, and then every item on the shopping list had a nice little tick next to it. We were clearly ready to do some cooking.

You will note my mis en place is in plastic bags. This is so I did not need to carry a box full of crap with me to the camp kitchen where the meal was cooked. “It’s pretty ingenious”, is probably what the other homies in the camp kitchen would have been thinking, and is also no doubt what you would be thinking right now.

Some booze for the stew and some booze for me

There’s those mis en place bags in the camp kitchen

Ready to go… with a big fat side of buttery sautéed cabbage

And a little more booze for me…


NZ VENISON, ROOT VEGETABLE & STOUT STEW

(serves 4)

500g venison shoulder, diced
1 onion, diced kinda chunky
2 carrot, chopped kinda chunky
2 sticks celery, chopped kinda chunky… let’s do all of the vegetables kinda chunky, ay
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 fist sized Jerusalem artichoke, chopped
6-7 yam, chopped
½ bunch thyme
1 tablespoon green peppercorns
500ml stout
500ml stock or water
Salt to season

Season venison and brown meat over med-high heat.
Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme, peppercorn bag and cook out for 5 minutes.
Add booze and stock, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Add artichokes and yam bag and simmer for another hour, or until meat is tender and vegetables are cooked. If the gravy starts to thicken up too much feel free to add a little more moisture in the form of stock or water.
Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Serve it up with a side of NZ’s finest booze.

Slow Cooking the Winter Chill Away…

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The first chill of winter never gets any easier. If summer is the firm tanned buttocks of the physically active young lady, then the first chill of winter is the pale sagging buttocks of the aged lady… polyester slacks included.

Yes, that is the first chill of winter – it’s a bitch of a surprise initially, but soon enough I will be used to it and accept it and love it like the mother would love her inbred child. Well, maybe not that much love, but soon I will acclimatize to the winter is the point I’m trying to make… I think.

As I sit here trying to warm myself from the alien experience that is the winter chill, on the couch, eating an ANZAC cookie, wrapped in a snuggle rug type thing I have stolen from one of my children, I contemplate things… I contemplate stuff… I contemplate that to an outsider I would look almost exactly the same as the bearded, street wise old hobo who hangs out at the local shops. Well shit Mr “outsider”, I am sorry for trying to keep my ass warm in this time that coldness descends upon us, and yes I am going to have another Anzac cookie. I am effing going to have another Anzac cookie. I am addicted to those things. If they were about when our troops went to war these cookies could have been gifted to the enemy and could have very possibly resolved any conflict before it had a chance to happen…

Also, as always, I contemplate what may constitute my next meal and how that meal is going to help to warm my body and nurture my soul and, well, just get some warmth into my life really. I don’t want a “warm hug”. No, in fact the next person I hear referring to a warming wintery dinner as a “warm hug” will quite possibly receive them self a warm flat palm straight to the face. No “warm hug”. Sorted? Right.

A slow braise, a ragout, a stew… what ever you may call it, it is truly one of the best things one can do for their person in times of such ominous chill.

It need not be a difficult process to transform some fridge stuff and a few things from the larder into a pot of awesome if you just follow a few simple ground rules. Not a recipe, just a formula to success.

So here is my secret formula, my family jewels, my third nipple… or just the things you need to make a decent braised pot of heart warming goodness;

A winter stew...

A winter stew…

Goes into some dishes and then steamed potatoes are pushed through the ricer to make a funny pattern that the kids like on top...

Leftovers go into some dishes and then steamed potatoes are pushed through the ricer to make a funny pattern that the kids like on top…

And then the whole nom nom nom thing happens

And then the whole nom nom nom thing happens


1. Something wet. No, no, no, your sheets are not going to do for this one little boy. We need moisture and we need viscosity (there is a whole other world I can head to with a lead-in line like that, but quite frankly even the Germans wouldn’t touch it, so I to will not be going there today…) as a saucy conduit for flavours to the journey from the plate to your face. Something like stock, booze, tomatoes or a combination can provide you with the sauciness you need
2. Some herb. The stuff you keep in the tobacco tin next to the scissors and the pack of cigarette papers on the top of the fridge will not do for this. If you are smart enough to have a few herbs in your garden then you will be winning right now. A few dried herbs in the cupboard will even find you a place close to the podium. Use grass and dirt if you have nothing else on hand
3. A secondary cut. This is not the knife wound the mass murderer inflicts when the first slash is ineffective, but instead it is the collective term for the cheaper cuts of meat that need a little extra love to achieve the state that is going to leave you laying back in a smoky, post-coital haze, much like the farmer in the pig stall. The cuts of meat less favoured by the consumer because of fuck knows why, because the smart money is on the secondary cut every time; tasty and cheap, much like the Thai lady-boy… except tastier… and not that cheap. But still plenty cheap. Chicken wings and even thighs, beef shin, chuck, cheek or brisket, pork shoulder or shank, lamb shoulder or ribs all fall into this category. Quite conveniently these are all of my favourite cuts. Lucky me
4. Slow cooking. Slow cooking. Slow cooking. Slow cooking is the secondary cuts besty. Without slow cooking the secondary cut is but dog scraps. These guys hang out and the magic happens, much like Torvill and Dean, Thelma and Louise or that guy and girl from Swedish 90’s pop-rock sensation, Roxette. Slow is good. Winter loves slow. A slow cooker will do this job just fine for you

So go now and slow cook some heart warming wintery goodness. Do it quickly.

And if you have leftovers fear not. For when you have leftovers you can put them in the freezer for a rainy day, or even better (or at least as good), put them in a pie. Whether your pie be encased in pastry – puff or short crust, or maybe a pot pie with a filo or potato crust just like the one I made today. Which reminds me, I set out today to pen a little piece about a pie I made with some leftover beef ragout (hence the pie pics) but as I often do, I got caught up in the moment and, after a brief flirtation with the point, I end jumping into bad and going ten rounds of the very best with a short story about the first chill of winter and how I’m going to sort that out so now that has become a story for another time.

I seem to be making it quite clear that I’ve been beating the chill with the whiskey so far… plenty of the finest brown paper bag covered Scotch whiskey.

That was some tasty braised beef shin

That was some tasty braised beef shin

it’s gonna flood

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it’s bloody wet in my neck of the woods at the mo’ and there’s a definite chance of being flooded in, and abandoned by the outside world…. just the way i like it!

i truly enjoy it.

so it’s time to load the fridge with beer, and maybe a little whiskey for later on, illegally download a shitload of new release movies and get a big pot of gruel on the stove to sustain you in this, your time of need. well…. we might be able to do a bit better then a pot of gruel. i’ll turn to my favourite rainy day staple, a big ol’ pot of ragout (or stew).

you’re gonna need-
4kg stewing/braising beef or lamb or some quality sausages, cut into good size chunks
(feel free to replace some of the meat with du puy lentils or white beans for some more fibre or a fun way to stink out your loved ones. and it really is delicious)
2 carrots, peeled, medium dice (1cm ish)*
2 celery sticks, same treatment*
2 brown onions, same again*
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed, or 2 Tbls minced garlic from the rancid smelling jar a the back of your fridge
some kinda bouquet garni**
1 cinnamon quill
2x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 bottle of red wine

first, have a glass of red. it’s cold. it’s wet, and let’s face it, you’re not going anywhere.
heat a large heavy based pot over med-high flame, add one Tbls oil followed by the meat and a bit of salt and pepper. brown meat until starting to caramelise nicely and a lovely smell fills your kitchen. remove from pot. add mirepoix to pot with another Tbls of oil and cook out for two minutes. add garlic and cook for a further minute. add meat back to pot and deglaze*** with remaining red wine. all other ingredients go in…… now. lid on, reduce heat to low and simmer for 1.5 hours. i guess this could also go into a slow cooker?

taste for seasoning and check the meat is tender. garnish with salsa verde and serve with pasta, polenta, steamed rice, potatoes of any description, in a pie or jaffle, etc, etc.

*these three veg are also known as a mirepoix, which forms the base of many french stocks, stews and sauces. remember that, ok.

**usually a combo of bay leaves, parsley and thyme sprigs tied together and used flavor stocks, soups and stews, but removed before consumption. it gets bastardised no end these days so feel free to chuck in what you want.

***this one i’ll let you find out for yourself as you clearly know how to use a computer.