This is a light, bright venison stew recipe perfect for any time it’s a bit cool out.
Lots of green vegetables, a light broth and slow-cooked venison bobbing around happily. Everything in this stew tastes of itself, which is a common theme in a lot of Greek cooking.
So far as I know, there is no exact stew like this in Greece — there is, however, a goat-and-fennel stew in the excellent book The Glorious Foods of Greece — but it is inspired by their simple and direct cooking style.
It’s basically a garden-cleaner, or, in my case, a forager’s stew. The greens I put in it vary every time I make it, but I always include something in the onion and garlic family, fennel — it grows wild everywhere here in California — oregano and some leafy things. Spinach, parsley, amaranth, turnip or mustard greens, chard, kale, lamb’s quarters, New Zealand spinach… you get the point.
For those of you who fear fennel and other anise flavors, they aren’t very strong in this stew. It’s only a hint that works well with the lemon and the venison.
That’s it: Nothing fancy, no need to wax poetic. It’s just a lovely, light stew I hope you will enjoy.
I really like the combination of these ingredients, so if you have access to things like green garlic and fresh fennel, please use them. But like most stews, you can play around. Most red meats will work fine here, and hell, I bet it would even be good with light meats like chicken, rabbit, pheasant or grouse. As for the vegetables, if you can't find one of the ones I list, use something nice. Spinach is good, turnip or mustard greens better. Arugula instead of parsley is a good alternative, too. Play with it.
- 1 1/2 pounds to 2 1/2 venison stew meat
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 5 green onions, whites and green parts chopped and separated
- 3 cloves stalks of green garlic, or 5 garlic cloves, chopped
- 3 to 5 fennel stalks, stalks and fronds chopped separately
- 1 tablespoon heaping tomato paste
- 1 quart chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup ouzo or other anise-flavored liqueur
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- Grated zest and juice of a lemon
- 1 cup chopped parsley, spinach, lamb's quarters, etc
- Black pepper to taste
- Salt the venison well and brown it in batches over medium-high heat. Remove the meat as it browns and set aside. When the meat is browned, add the white parts of the onions and garlic stalks, as well as the stalk part of the fennel; leave the fronds for later. Cook the vegetables over medium heat, stirring often, until they are soft, about 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle some salt over them.
- Add the tomato paste and mix well. Cook this a minute or two, then add the water and stir until it incorporates with the tomato paste. Bring this to a boil and add the ouzo and chicken broth, then the oregano. Return the venison and any juices that have collected to the pot. Simmer this gently until the venison is tender, about 2 hours, maybe 3 for an old animal.
- When the venison is tender, add the lemon zest, parsley, green parts of the onions and fronds from the fennel and cook for a few minutes to wild the vegetables. Add black pepper and any salt the stew might need and serve with the lemon juice on the side so everyone can add it to their liking.
One tip: Drizzle some really special olive oil over the bowl when you serve. It adds a lot. Serve this stew with crusty bread and a good red wine.