I am really starting get in to winter mode now. Hats, gloves and scarves are a permanent fixture on the end post of the staircase, the lights are almost always on and hearty food has taken the place of lighter late summer meals.
This morning we set out to do some community tree planting. Wrapped up warm and armed with flasks of warm juice we made our way down muddy paths to reach the public clearing when the planting had begun in ernest. I have quite recently become a member of my local branch of The Ladies Circle who do voluntary charity work within the local community. A few weeks ago we were approached by our local community garden (a local food growing enterprise, who run solely on the kindness of local business donations and the hard work of volunteers) who had been gifted with 200 native tree saplings and needed help planting them. The small saplings with their thin stems and straggly root balls didn’t look capable of growing up as big and strong as their cousins in the wood surrounding the clearing but after a bit of a lesson from Brenda, our community garden champion, I soon learned how to carefully plant to sapling so its stem wouldn’t rot in the wet, cold earth and stake it so it wouldn’t topple over in the weather.
Predictably, about 20 minutes after our arrival the heavens opened bursting forth icy rain and blustery winds. My son soon began regretting his decision to leave the cosiness of his bed and began his campaign to return home. There is nothing worse than a miserable, cold child so we made an agreement to call it a day but return when the weather cleared.
Back home he settled down to watch Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman with a cup of hot chocolate whilst I decided to have an afternoon of cooking. I have taken a bit of a liking to cooking with game of late and so set to making a mixed game meat stew. I love game, it has a fuller, stronger flavour than beef and is so versatile. Delicate pheasant breasts can be marinated with oriental flavours, sprinkled with sesame seeds and flash fried in a pan before being served with risotto, rich venison makes a hearty bourginon delicious served with a good red wine and Yorkshire pudding, the posibilities are endless. This recipe is very much based upon the ever reliable beef bourginon recipe from Julie Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in that you deal with the main components individually to let their flavours develop before putting them together with the other ingredients. The finished dish is rich, glossy and delicious served with mashed potato and green vegetables. You could also transfer the cooked stew into a pie dish, roll over a little pastry and bake for a further 20-30 minutes until golden and have yourself a game pie. Enjoy.
- 500g of mixed game meat
- 1 carrot
- 1 leek
- 3-4 large mushrooms
- 1 litre beef stock
- Heaped tablespoon of flour
- 2 tablespoons of oil
- 1 teaspoon of tomato puree
- A glass of red wine
Heat your oven to approximately 150ºc.
In a frying pan heat the oil. Add the meat in small batches allowing it to brown before transferring it to a heavy, oven proof, lidded pot.
When the meat is cooked add the vegetables to the fry pan and allow to take on a little colour before adding them to the meat.
Sprinkle the flour over the meat and vegetable ensuring an even coating.
Add the beet stock, tomato puree and wine.
Bring to a simmer on the hob before putting on the lid and transferring to the oven. Cook slowly for a couple of hours until the meat is tender and the sauce thick. To add a little gloss to the sauce, pop in a knob of butter and give it a stir.