Venison and dark spices were made for each other. The richness of the game alongside the earthy, evocative flavours of black cardamom, star anise, and mace is a work of beauty. When you throw in the warming glow of the fortified wine from the Douro what evolves is a stew not for the faint hearted. I’ve travelled quite a bit in the highlands this summer, nothing new there, but I’ve ventured to areas I’ve long coveted but never journeyed to. Sutherland is one of those, a great wilderness in the far north west of Scotland. In the butcher in Lochinver I picked up some of the best venison I’ve ever had, meat so dark it was almost the colour of liver, from the heather, gorse, and blaeberry covered hills around Assynt. This was the meat for the ultimate treatment, a base of well browned onions I was taught is the perfect first layer, followed by garlic, and spices. Finally the meat browned in the aromatic oil and then given a long slow bathe.
Wild venison with port and whole spice
1 brown onion sliced
2 cloves garlic
1 star anise
2 black cardamom
1 blade mace
8-10 black peppercorns
2 sprigs thyme
500g Wild venison diced
- Set the oven to 150C. In a heavy based pan cook the onion in a good glug of oil and a knob of butter until well browned. As it starts to brown add the garlic, whole spices, and thyme.
- Season the venison well with salt. When the onion is browned and garlic no longer smells raw move to the side and brown the meat well on all sides.
- Pour over the port, stir well, cover and place in the middle of the oven. Check after 1 hour and remove the cinnamon if the aroma is overpowering, if not check again after two hours and remove then. If the stew begins to dry out add a little water. Cook for 2.5-3 hours until the meat is meltingly tender, remove the stalks of thyme and any visible star anise and cardamom. Serve.