Friday, 4 November 2011

Venison casserole with onion polenta

This is my latest adventure in cheffiness...

Venison and orange casserole
Polenta with onions and thyme
French beans with Balsamic shallots and garlic

I made the venison casserole in my usual way, browning the meat in seasoned flour before cooking it long and slow with lots of chopped onions and a few whole shallots. As well as stock, I added the juice and zest of a large orange. For added flavour I included a Bay leaf and some fresh Thyme leaves.

The Polenta dish was an experiment, inspired by something I had seen in Yotam Ottolenghi's book "Plenty".
I slowly cooked a large onion, thinly sliced, in some vegetable oil, until it was soft and caramelised. I then made up about 200g of Polenta, following the manufacturer's instructions. You add the polenta slowly to boiling water, stirring vigorously. [I strongly recommend using a non-stick saucepan.] The polenta only needs to cook for about five minutes, and just before it was ready I added about 25g grated Parmesan cheese, a small knob of butter, a handful of fresh Thyme leaves - and my fried onions. A final good stir to melt the cheese and distribute all the other ingredients, and then I poured it into a greased Pyrex dish and left it to cool. This is what it looked like a couple of hours later when I tipped it out.

From a distance it looks a bit like a sponge cake with raisins in it - but I assure you it tastes nothing like that! I was pleased with the overall "marbled" effect, which was just what I had wanted.

These thick slices of polenta were cooked in a searingly hot griddle pan for a few minutes just before serving the meal.

The final element of the meal was the (home-grown) French beans. I boiled these in salted water until just "al dente", drained them and kept them warm while I made the garnish, which was shallots and garlic very finely chopped and then cooked in a small quantity of vegetable oil to which was added a tablespoonful of Balsamic vinegar.

The beauty of this meal was that most of the hard work was done well in advance. With the casserole in the oven, the polenta cooked and sliced, the beans and their garnish ready prepped, I was able to sit down and enjoy a pre-dinner drink, before spending just a few minutes putting it all together.  This is what the end result looked like:-

Do you need a wine recommendation? We had ours with a bottle of lovely Argentinian Malbec. Venison is stronger-tasting than beef, and will easily stand up to Cabernet Sauvignon too!

On the same day I made Butternut Squash and Tomato soup, which we ate for lunch the next day. I'm not planning to write about this, so just a picture...


  1. That looks very professional Mark. I like the idea of beans with shallots and Balsamic. The polenta sounds very tasty too.

  2. oh Mark, this looks divine!... I love the stew. not crazy about polenta but yours does look wonderful... and you have been busy... that soup looks awsome too!

  3. Ah so we have a casserole here too, and this one is a meat one :) I love polenta this way, and often make mine with sundried tomaotoe, herbs and chilli flakes, not tried it with onions, so this is a polenta idea I am keeping in mind for sure.

  4. I agree, I think the beans sound good and there is never a day when venison doesn't sound good but I have no idea what polenta is. Never seen anyone cook anything with polenta so I tend to be a bit wary. As for wine, well I wouldn't know one from the other and seldom drink it.

  5. Lovely! The Cook usually uses the oven to heat the polenta with a sauce, and sprinkled with cheese. I like the griddle version though.

  6. That polenta looks great -
    I'm interested that you say it only takes about 5 minutes to cook as whenever I've made it takes considerably more - perhaps you have quick cook polenta?

  7. It looks delicious. I'm all in favour of dishes which can be prepared in advance.

  8. I've never had polenta - I'm intrigued.

  9. I'm like Sue, I've never eaten polenta, but saw it on River Cottage recently, and now your blog. I may have to explore its possibilities. I love stews and casseroles. We have a slow cooker (currently cooking a ham for tea), so I often put a casserole on in the morning and by tea time it is perfectly cooked, and very cheaply too. Mind you, I do find it strange to be browning meat first thing in the morning...


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