Hunting and gathering go together like peas and carrots… or maybe ham and beans. In any case, nothing pairs better with meat from a wild animal that you’ve harvested yourself than vegetables and spices that you’ve picked, dug, cut, uprooted or even grown in your garden.
This recipe is near and dear to my heart. I make it several times throughout the colder months and my family looks forward to it every fall. It is an amazing way to utilize many wild edibles and garden vegetables at once, if you are so inclined. If you’re not that experienced of a forager or gardener yet, don’t despair. You can substitute a lot of the ingredients in the recipe for familiar market vegetables.
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Pounds venison stew meat
3 Small, chopped onions (Wild onions go great here but don’t confuse them with wild garlic as most people do. Also, wild onions are very small, like scallions, so you can do your own recipe math on that one)
7 Cloves wild garlic (you can substitute cultivated garlic, but it tends to be much bigger than wild so use less. 4 cloves will do it for most pallets)
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2-3 Medium sized wild Spicebush Leaves (you can substitute 1 bay leaf)
1 Teaspoon dried oregano
1 Teaspoon dried Spicebush powder (you can substitute black pepper here, but try to get some spicebush. Seriously, It’s like ultra high quality, organic black pepper)
3 Cups chicken stock (You can use any type of stock here if you like, but I have found that chicken stock tends to be more friendly to most pallets. It will help lighten up this heavy stew)
7 Medium sized wild parsnips cut into 1 inch pieces. (You can substitute 4-5 cultivated parsnips or 4-5 small to medium potatoes, I much prefer parsnips)
4 Medium carrots cut into 1 inch pieces.
1 Small Zucchini cut into 1 inch pieces.
1 Sprig fresh basil as an optional, aromatic garnish.
1/4 cup flour (You can use all purpose or whole wheat flour here with very similar results. I save my bigger garden zucchinis and dry them in my food dehydrator and then grind them into a powder, seeds and all. When I make this stew at home, I usually split the 1/4 cup flour into half wheat flour and half zucchini flour for an extra nutrition boost. You could also use yellow squash, pumpkin, etc. Do this and I promise you will not be disappointed)
1. In a large skillet, brown the meat in the vegetable oil. (Resist the temptation to use olive oil here. You want to sear this meat at a high temperature that olive oil can’t quite handle. Olive oil will burn and impart off flavors here. Even if you back the temp off a bit, the meat is going to stew a long time and using it would just be a waste of your good olive oil… and trust me, you want to sear the outside at med-high temp, so the inside locks in the meat’s natural moisture)
2. When the meat is nice and brown on the outside, add the garlic and onions and stir gently for 1 minute.
3. Add Worcestershire, Spicebush (or bay) leaves, oregano, salt, and chicken stock. Cover the skillet and simmer 1 1/2 – 2 hours
4. Add parsnips (or potatoes) carrots and Zucchini and cook until tender.
5. Slowly… and I mean slowly, stir in the flour. You’re just using this as a thickening agent, so feel free to stop adding flour once you’ve reached the desired thickness. This is really a matter of preference / eyeball / intuition.
You can serve this hearty wild meal by itself, over a wild rice blend or crusty bread. Use your local ingredients and some imagination tweak it to suit you. I’d love to hear your evolution of the recipe!