Venison Stew Tunisian Style

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Venison stew is a standard in my home, and I make many varieties. This one, inspired by the flavors of Tunisia and North Africa, is one of my favorites. If that sounds exotic, it mostly isn’t. Virtually everything you need to make this recipe you already have, or is easily found in the supermarket.

A North African venison stew in a serving bowl
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

I first made this venison stew from a whitetail doe I shot in an alfalfa field in northern Wyoming. She was a magnificent animal — with a thick layer of sweet, grain-fed fat — and this is a magnificent stew. Everything falls into place together, and the flavors, seasoning and texture of this dish all come out perfectly.

This recipe is an amalgam of several I’ve read in books by Paula Wolfert, Clifford Wright and, most notably Claudia Roden’s New Book of Middle Eastern Food, which I highly recommend.

Building a Better Venison Stew

I make so many stews from so many different animals I have developed a set of rules I rarely stray far from. I wrote a whole article on this, but I’ll give you the short version here: 

  • Brown your meat before the liquid enters the stage.
  • Tomato paste is versatile and amazing. Most of my stews have at least a tablespoon. I make my own, too, which is worth the time. Cover it with oil and homemade tomato paste will last a year.
  • Add ingredients gradually. Learned this one from my mom. Put everything in the pot at once and you will have some things soft and lovely and other things soft and mushy. That’s why I wait to add the potatoes, peas, olives and such.
  • Don’t overcook pepper and potatoes. Both will dissolve if you let them stew too long. Think al dente pasta.

Game meats and tough domestic cuts suitable for stews require a long time before they will submit. You cannot make a venison stew on a schedule. Sometimes it’s done in 90 minutes. Sometimes, like when you have an old bull or graybeard buck, it can take upwards of 4 hours. Slow and low is the key.

Don’t worry, just kick back and let the stock and herbs do their thing.

North African venison stew recipe in a serving bowl
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

That’s another reason why you add your veggies later — elk, deer or moose can stew for several hours even after they’ve become tender, giving you all the time you need to cook your vegetables.

Add another dose of herbage right at at the table, and if it is a venison stew that lacks bright flavor notes, you could do worse than hit it with a little squeeze of lemon right at the end. Your family will not really notice it, but they will notice a wider range of flavors than they would have otherwise.

Meat for Venison Stew

Well, stew meat, duh. Seriously, any decent piece of meat off a big game animal will work fine.

It is a myth to say you need to remove sinew to make a tender venison stew. The entire point of making a stew is to let it cook slow and low, and that process naturally dissolves connective tissue and makes your stew richer, with more body and heft. Give it time and you will be rewarded.

If you are in a hurry, a better trick is to dice your venison, like for venison sauce piquante. This will help it all cook much, much faster. 

Oven or Stovetop? 

Either. I prefer the stovetop because I can monitor things easier. Lift the lid, check on doneness, stir, replace lid, move on. 

But oven baking a venison stew works very well, and results in a more even cook that requires less stirring. Put your stew in a covered pot at 325°F for about the same amount of time. 

Alternate Venison Stew Recipes

Looking for a venison stew with a different set of flavors? I have lots. Lots and lots, actually.

A final suggestion: Big wines and malty beers. This is not the place for Pinot Noir. Lusty reds are the ticket here, like a Spanish Rioja or a California Cabernet Sauvignon. A Scottish ale or a German dunkel or bock is the ticket here.

North African venison stew recipe in a serving bowl
4.84 from 24 votes

North African Venison Stew

Use these ingredients as a guide, not dogma. If you can't find some of the specialized ingredients, like the harissa, use sriracha or even a few dashes of hot sauce. Once made, this stew will keep for a week in the fridge.
Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: North African
Servings: 8 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 2 to 3 pounds venison stew meat, or beef or lamb
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 large onions, sliced root to tip
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 quart venison broth or beef stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 pounds fingerling or Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 2 Anaheim peppers, diced
  • 1 cup peas
  • 12 green olives, chopped
  • 1 or 2 preserved lemons, chopped (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons Harissa or ground chiles
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley or cilantro

Instructions 

  • Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or other large pot with a lid. Brown the stew meat — I like 2-inch chunks — over medium-high heat. Do this in batches and take your time. Set aside the browned venison while you do the rest.
  • Heat the oven to 325°F.
  • When the meat is all browned, add the onion — this will deglaze the pot. Stir it around until no browned bits are left in the pot. Sauté this until the onions are browned, then add the garlic and cook another minute or two.
  • Add the the meat back to the pot, then the tomato paste and mix well. Pour in the venison stock and bay leaves and bring to a simmer, add salt to taste, cover and put into the oven for 2 hours.
  • At the two-hour mark, turn the heat down to 300°F and add the potatoes and peppers. Return to the oven.
  • Once the potatoes are tender, remove the pot from the oven, turn it off, and stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover the pot again on the stovetop and let this sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 339kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 96mg | Sodium: 431mg | Potassium: 1217mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 440IU | Vitamin C: 39mg | Calcium: 49mg | Iron: 6mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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34 Comments

  1. Just made this for the family. So good! Easily my favorite venison stew recipe. It’s a little spicy for my youngest, but the flavors are so great. Served it with some fresh sourdough for sopping.

  2. I was thinking of browning in a Cast iron pan but baking in a Tagine? Your thoughts on this.

  3. lots of rich flavours from not many ingredients. I used ground ancho chiles when I couldn’t find tube of harissa paste 2 hours into cooking! the potatoes got nice and tasty being cooked in the sauce.

  4. This is my all time favorite venison stew recipe. I’ve probably made this dozens of times over the years and lately my husband just said, I could eat this every day!

  5. Wow this turned out great!!! Did a few different things, I only had green bells and celery leaves. I halved the Harissa as I was also feeding my 2 year old. Very tasty! I should’ve made more stock as the potatoes really sucked it in! Thanks Hank. This one will certainly be a regular.

  6. Made this two nights ago. It was delicious! Full of flavor and complexity. Added a little celery since I was using the leaves and also added two carrots. Added a little fresh lemon juice and fresh chopped parsley at the end because I always do with stew, though I’m not sure this one needed it. Everything else, I did exactly as written. This is my new venison stew recipe! I love the spice of the Harissa and the perfect texture of the vegetables. Thanks Hank,

  7. Grating the onions makes all the difference. 🙂 Hank, this stew sounds and looks FANTASTIC! I am salivating just reflecting on it.

  8. My oh my, that sounds great. I am a fan of crock pot stews and finally the weather is starting to turn. Your culinary skills are way beyond mine, yet I will venture out of the norm and try some of your recipes. Thanks for your wonderful descriptions and details. Much appreciated.

  9. I’ve enjoyed Holly’s blog for a long time but every time I clicked over here all the fonts looked weird and the page was hard to read – until today! I’m glad and I’ve got a lot of reading to do…

    The stew sounds good – and it sounds like you do a lot of the same things I do, but I learned a few new things too!

  10. i love that you can not only eat a delicious dish, but you can eat it knowing you killed it and it brings back memories of that day. this looks killer.

  11. hank.
    happened to accidently stumble on this page after an already planned meal of venison stew. Looking forward to using your suggestions.

  12. Hank —

    Great ideas, and your stew absolutely made my mouth water. It is getting close to stew season here in Sac, isn’t it? I am planning to try your grated onion and lovage ideas out on my next stew. I’ve also found that a cinnamon stick in the stew adds a nice flavor, as does a dash of fresh orange juice just before serving. Cheers!

  13. Good post. Stews are fun. I agree that browning the meat is essential. Will try the grated onion trick and tomato paste. As for overcooking, I learned the hard way recently with some inferior Trader Joes potatoes.

  14. Hola Hank! Thanks for the stew tips! That picture up there looks awesome, comforting, flavourful, tasteful… Magnífico!

  15. I like your rules and share many of them like deep browning, the bit of tomato paste, and cooking ingredients for just the right amount of time. Will have to try grating onions … I usually slice or mince mine but juicy gratings sound like a smart way to deglaze.