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Venison stew with chestnut sauce


I was asked if I had any recipes which use chestnuts - here's one. It goes fantastically well with a mature Rhone such as any Raymond Usseglio Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Serves 6-8
A variation on any basic stew recipe.

Fry 250g pancetta (otherwise, bacon or salted pork belly) until the fat is rendered and remove to a bowl. Brown 1.5kg diced venison in small batches and transfer to the bowl with the pancetta.

Sweat 2 onions, finely sliced, chantenay carrots, 2 sticks of celery (chopped into small pieces) and some chopped garlic. Deglaze the casserole with a good slug of brandy and set alight. Add half a bottle each of Port and red wine (preferably Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo, otherwise any light and fruity red – not a heavy one). Bring to the boil then add beef stock2 bay leaves and a sprig or two of thyme, 1tbs Dijon mustard and 1tbs redcurrant jelly. Return the meat to the casserole and, if necessary, add enough boiling water to cover the meat. Season (no salt should be required as this is already in the pancetta) and simmer for 3 hours, occasionally checking there is enough liquid.

Serve with Chestnut sauce, roast parsnips and some cavolo nero.

Chestnut sauce
I found a recipe for chestnut sauce in The Square cookbook. It involved deep frying the chestnuts before peeling them. The first time I tried this, without a proper deep fat fryer, one of the chestnuts popped and a load of oil shot into my face... I ended up in A&E, somewhat concerned that my quest for culinary perfection may have rendered me blind. I have since realised that the only reason for doing this is to ensure the sauce is as white as possible. If you want the flavour and texture and don't mind the sauce being light brown, use vacuum sealed chestnuts. It's a lot easier! The method below is a safe compromise.

Heat oven to 150°C.

240g fresh chestnuts
, crossed and roasted with a little oil for 15-20 minutes (covered) or deep fry at 180°C for 4 minutes. Peel the skins, leaving just the white chestnut flesh.

Melt 25g butter and add chestnuts with a pinch each of salt and sugar then place in oven for 10 minutes. Remove to hob and simmer for 30 minutes with

250ml chicken stock
150ml milk
Allow to cool then blitz in a blender to a smooth paste. If the sauce is too runny, gently simmer, stirring regularly. It will thicken a little as it cools anyway.

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