Monday, 8 November 2010

Winter Sunday Lunch

I love Sunday lunch, especially in the game season! In our family it is traditionally served closer to dinner time  and preparation can take up the whole day; pottering between the kitchen and the garden, filling the house with delicious smells, slowly creating all the lovely dishes that will make up this rich and rewarding meal.


Venison Stew with Chestnuts, Prunes & Fennel.
Little Parsnip & Potato Roasties, Roasted Butternut Squash, Rainbow Chard
Apple and Blackberry Pie with Almonds and Fresh Cream

I was lucky enough to escape to the country again this weekend and picked up some beautifully fresh and delicious ingredients from the local farm shop.
Stew is a great meal for a Sunday lunch as you can prepare it as early as you like and cook it slowly all day long leaving you free to lounge around or go out for a long walk, or a quick pint...

I like to marinade the venison over night (though two hours is fine) and use a similar marinade to the recipe I posted a few weeks ago for rabbit: Garlic, red wine, bay, juniper berries and pepper. 
For the stew base I have used large slices of fennel and one large onion (chopped), red wine, coffee, stock, prunes, chestnuts and sage.
Brown the venison in a pan in a little oil and transfer to a large casserole dish. Add a little wine or water to the pan and scrape off any juices or burned bits that may have stuck to the bottom and pour the liqueur over the meat. Sweat the onions and the fennel and add to the meat. Add the marinade juices, 1/3 bottle of red wine, one cup of fresh coffee and a sprinkle of beef stock cube.

Finally add a good handful of pitted prunes. Stir all the ingredients together then cover and place in the middle of a moderate oven and cook for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally. If the juices look a little low add more wine or water; the meat always wants to be mostly covered with sauce.

In the final hour season the stew and add the chestnuts and a handful of fresh sage. I used a whole can of chestnuts in water as it saved a lot of time roasting and peeling 20 of them by myself; though with more people in the kitchen it can be a nice job to do and freshly hot roasted chestnuts are irresistible so make sure you buy plenty as quite a few will fail to make it to the pot.

To accompany the stew I roasted small cubes of potato and parsnip (thank you Stevie for your recipe!) in some goose fat (a mix of oil and butter is good too) herbs De Provence, salt and whole cloves of garlic. Heat the fat in a roasting dish in the oven. Pour the raw vegetables into the pan and stir into the oil. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour in the top of the oven stirring in the fat every so often until brown and crispy.

I also roasted some butternut squash on a baking tray with a little oil, thyme and salt. This is a lovely side dish but also makes a very good light meal; serve hot with a crumble of feta, some toasted pine nuts and a mixed green salad. Simply roast in the oven for 35 minutes or until cooked through and crisping on the outside.

Rainbow chard is in season and I can't get enough of it. It has a bitter greens flavour that perfectly compliments the sweet and gamey stew and the beautiful colours it brings to the table are amazing.

 Simply slice and sweat the chard in a pan with some butter just before eating. The stems need slightly longer than the leaves so cook the stems first for a few minutes before adding the leaves.

Apple & Blackberry Pie

First make the pastry. 400g Plain flour, 200g unsalted butter, 1 pinch of salt, Cold water. Sift the flour into a bowl with the salt.

Cube the butter into the flour. Rub the flour and butter roughly together between your fingers and thumb, leaving large chunks of butter still whole in the mixture. Pour in a little cold water and cut the mixture together using a knife. Add more water until the pastry starts to form into a ball but is still quite dry (you can start mixing with your hands at this point). Turn out onto a floured surface and form into a rectangle. Start to roll out the pastry.

Roll in the same direction always away from you. When the pastry is rolled out to about 1 1/2 cm thick fold over itself into thirds,  rotate 90 and roll out again. Continue this process 6-7 times. Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

The key to good pastry is to make sure the butter and water are well chilled and that the room you are in is not too hot; work by an open window if the oven is making your kitchen very hot. Don't handle the pastry too much and work lightly with the tips of your fingers only. I have also been told an old wives tale (gentlemen please skip to the end of the paragraph) that at 'that time of the month' women should never attempt a pastry as our body temperature is slightly higher...

The Filling:
I forgot to buy cooking apples so I just stewed down some coxes with a little sugar and lemon juice (non cooking apples are lovely to cook with but lack a certain tartness and adding a little lemon juice works well). When stewed, remove from the heat and mix in 1tbsp of ground almonds, 1tbsp of flaked almonds and the zest of half a lemon. Leave to chill completely before using to fill the pie.

Slice the pastry into two halves (one slightly bigger than the other). Roll the larger piece to a thickness of about 5mm. Use to line a greased pie tin. Fill the pastry with the cooled apple mixture and push fresh blackberries evenly into it. Sprinkle a little caster sugar over the top of the fruit. Roll out the second piece of pastry. Mix one egg yolk with a table spoon of milk and brush around the edge of the pie to help stick the lid on. Lay the top piece of pastry over the pie. Cut off the excess pastry and pinch the two halves together with your fingers or squash down with the tip of a knife.

Feel free to decorate the pie with some shapes made out of the excess pastry and stick them to the top of the pie with the egg. Make some slits into the top of the pie. Cover and return the pie to the fridge until needed. Brush with the egg before baking in the top of a hot oven (190 C) for 50 minutes.
Sprinkle with sugar and serve with some fresh cream.


  1. Quite simply awesome. Why didn't I go back to Chippy at the weekend?

  2. I imagine that instead of making the apple and blackberry pie one could put the stew into the pie instead [maybe with some of the rast potatoes?] and turn it into a venison pie? Would you need to make any changes to the stew recipe to make this work - i.e would it be too runny?

  3. Indeed you could; the pastry works well with both sweet and savory pies.
    The stew is made without any thickner and would as you rightly imagine be slighlty too runny for a pie.
    Thicken the sauce in the last few minutes of cooking the stew with some arrowroot powder or cornflour (you will need to cook the cornflour for 5 mins or so) Alternatively add a couple of teaspoons of english mustard powder (to taste) as it also works as a great thickner.
    When compiling your pie spoon in the meat first (you can pile it up over the top if the pie) then add the sauce making sure you leave 2cm from the top of the pie (or it will bubble over when you cook the pie later). Also make sure you cool the filling well first.