Venison stew with dumplings

Serves 4
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Rich, gamey stews are the perfect skiing fodder, and this recipe will warm the cockles on a cold winter's night. If possible, try to buy a single cut of venison like shoulder, neck or a single muscle cut from the leg, as mixed cuts will require various cooking times, so if you're not careful you'll end up with a mixed bag of tender, dry and tough stew on your hands.

1.5 kg trimmed venison meat, cut into 3-4 cm chunks
750ml good red wine
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
3 juniper berries crushed
1tsp thyme, leaves removed and chopped
1 bay leaf
Vegetable oil for frying
60g butter
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
3tbsp plain flour
1/2 tbsp tomato purée
1 1/2 litres dark meat stock (or a couple of good quality beef stock cubes dissolved in that amount of water)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dumplings

125g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
60g suet
1tbsp chopped parsley
1tbsp freshly grated horseradish
Water to mix
Salt and pepper

Put the venison into a stainless steel or ceramic bowl with the red wine, garlic, thyme, juniper and bay leaf. Cover and marinade in the fridge for two days.

Drain the meat in a colander, reserving the marinade, and dry the pieces on some kitchen paper. Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan, lightly flour the meat with a tablespoon of the flour, season with salt and pepper and fry the meat on a high heat, a few pieces at a time, until nicely browned.

Heat the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and gently fry the onions for a few minutes until soft. Add the flour and tomato purée and stir over a low heat for a minute. Slowly add the marinade, stirring constantly to avoid lumps forming. Bring to the boil and simmer until it has reduced by half. Add the meat stock and the pieces of venison, bring back to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer gently for about 1 1/2 hours until the meat is tender. It's difficult to put an exact time on cooking braised meats: half an hour extra may be required.

Once the meat is cooked, the sauce should have thickened sufficiently. If not, dilute a little cornflour in some water and stir into the sauce and simmer for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, make the dumplings. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl and add half a teaspoon of salt. Mix in the suet, parsley and horseradish, then add enough water to form a sticky dough. Flour your hands and roll the dough into 12 little balls.

Poach the dumplings in boiling salted water for 15 minutes, then remove them and put to one side. To serve, re-heat the dumplings in the stew. Served with mashed root vegetables or seasonal greens.

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