Thursday, 11 December 2014

Chilli venison casserole with chocolate

I made this Mexican 'mole' inspired casserole in the slow cooker at the weekend and, apart from having to deal with all the shallots, it was very easy indeed. What's more at this time of year it's so useful to literally throw several ingredients in the pot and a few hours later, as if by magic, have a delicious warming meal. My slow cooker was a Christmas gift from my parents last year and we use it constantly. As well as being an incredibly efficient bit of kit, there is something deeply reassuring about knowing that dinner is taken care of and you can get on with your day.

This is based on a recipe from Slow Cooking: Best New Recipes by Annette Yates and Norma Miller which doesn't look or sound terribly inspiring, but has become my slow cooking bible. It serves 6 people.

900g stewing venison, cut into cubes
3 rashers of streaky bacon
12 shallots, peeled and sliced into quarters
2 red chillies, seeds removed, finely sliced
150g cranberries
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
400ml stock (ideally venison or beef)
150ml port or red wine
freshly ground black pepper
55g dark chocolate

Firstly preheat the slow cooker to High. Place everything apart from the chocolate in the slow cooker, cover with the lid and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours. Everything goes straight in without having to fry the meat or shallots/onions first. Just before serving stir through the chocolate and check the seasoning. You might need to thicken the sauce slightly if it's a bit thin with some cornflour mixed with water.

The ingredients cook down beautifully resulting in a warmly spicy dish and meltingly tender venison. As a crunchy garnish I made a gremolata with a handful of breadcrumbs fried until golden with butter and a crushed clove of garlic, combined with finely grated orange zest and chopped parsley.

Served with steamed cabbage and a bottle of Rioja Reserva, it was a perfect winter meal.

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