Well the sun was out, the temperatures were bearable and it’s the half term school holidays next week meaning one thing – everybody was out and about. We headed up to Gibside on the fringes of Gateshead for a walk around the ruined Gibside Hall. It’s eerie and spectacular in equal measure, being now little more than an overgrown shell of a once grand house. The chapel and ‘column of liberty’ have fared a little better and still stand a mile apart and in direct view of one another. Hopefully this lends a scale to the size of the estate. We headed up around the far reaches of the estate for the better views and steeper climbs and before we knew it a couple of hours had passed.
And so, a moderately lengthy winter walk requires a sturdy dinner. I’ll admit, I’ve put this together based on a couple of dishes I’ve eaten at The Broad Chare, a favourite of mine, mainly for its rustic British food and locally sourced produce. They were actually starters of braised venison with Elsdon cheese on toast and blood pudding with roasted squash and I kind of pulled the two together. Not having Elsdon (a firm goats cheese), I substituted some Wensleydale which has a similar sharp flavour. The venison was diced shoulder, slowly simmered for two hours in wine and beef stock until massively rich. The sweet butternut squash and sharp cheese were perfect companions!
For someting a little different, I tried an ingredient given to me by a friend in a Christmas hamper – some chocolate extract. Chocolate is seemingly unlikely friend of venison and this did lend a nice flavour to the dish overall, without dominating it. I’ll experiment further though….
- 500g diced venison suitable for slow cooking.
- 2 large glasses of red wine, I used Rioja.
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1 garlic clove, 1 carrot, 1 onion and 1 stick of celery finely diced.
- 1 litre (2 pints) rich beef stock
- 1 good splash of Worcestershire sauce
- 2 bay leaves and a large sprig of thyme, leaves only.
- 70g smoked bacon lardons
- 1 butternut squash, halved, seeded and cut into chunks
- Olive oil
- Salt and Pepper
- Wensleydale cheese to serve
- Optional – chocolate extract to taste.
In a heavy casserole dish, heat some oil and fry off the venison and lardons (in batches) until well browned.
Stir in the vegetables and soften them. Return the meat and stir though the flour, adding a little water to make it ‘stick’. Pour in the wine and stock and add the bay leaves. Stir thoroughly.
Put the lid on the pot and simmer on the lowest possible heat for about two hours.
After an hour, place the prepared butternut squash in a tray, season with salt and drizzle with oil. Roast in a moderate oven for about an 45 minutes to 1 hour until very tender.
For the last half and hour of the vension, remove the lid to reduce and concentrate the liquid and for the last 5 minutes, add the thyme leaves. Add the chocolate extract to taste if using at the end – it’s worth a try.
Serve the dish up with shavings of Wensleydale cheese and a large glass of Rioja. Perfect.