Now that the weather is cooling, my thoughts tend to turn to slow-cooker recipes. If that's also your jam this time of year, have I got a doozie for you.
The feeling of coming home after a long day at work and being greeted with the fragrance of a hearty meal that's been bubbling away all day is amazing. The great thing about slow-cooked meals is that the hard part is done - all you have to do is cook the accompanying veggies. If you're really clever, it will be a one-pot meal that includes veggies, and you only need to dish it up and enjoy.
While this recipe does require the cooking of additional veggies to complete the meal, hopefully I've made up the convenience factor by providing two additional meal ideas! Yes that's right - this delicious casserole can be used to create two other meals to save even more time in the kitchen. The total number of serves for the venison casserole is six (very hearty sized), but if like us you serve two people with the original casserole, you can spread the remaining four generous servings out over the additional two recipes, and serve more people by adding extra veggies.
You may be happy to wait two or three days between the casserole and the pot pies (the casserole mix will be happy in the fridge for this time), but you may want to freeze the casserole mix and have the pasties during the next week or so, just to space out the red meat meals.
We were fortunate to be given some lovely venison by a keen hunter, but if you don't have access, then using any casserole-appropriate cut of beef will do the trick.
Whether you own a big casserole dish or a slow-cooker, you can adapt the cooking instructions to suit. I used a slow-cooker set on "auto", which heats on high for the first hour, then low for the rest of the time, with a total cooking time of around 7 hours. Check the instruction manual of your slow-cooker for guidance. If cooking in a casserole dish in the oven, you can achieve a similar result by setting your oven on a lower heat, around 120 degrees Celsius, and cooking for around 5 hours. You may also have an oven that you can set to automatically switch on and off, which is really handy!
Slow-cooker Venison Casserole
Ingredients (serves 6+)
850 grams venison, cubed
generous 1/4 cup of flour
oil for browning
2 onions, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 cups beef stock
1 cup red wine
1/4 cup dried split red lentils
1 cup sliced mushrooms
300 grams diced pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 red capsicum, sliced (optional)
salt and pepper to season (around 1/2 teaspoon of salt)
Place your slow-cooker on the bench on a wooden board (to protect your bench top from any heat), and turn on to "auto" to preheat.
Put flour into a large bowl and coat the cubed venison. Add a little more flour if needed; I found I needed another 1/8th of a cup (a half of the quarter cup). Heat some oil in a heavy-based frypan and brown the venison on a medium-high heat in four batches. This saves the meat from being too crowded in the pan and getting really moist as it browns. Pop the browned meat into the slow-cooker.
Put a bit more oil into the frypan and sauté your onion and celery until soft. Add the beef stock and wine and heat until it starts to bubble. Pour into the slow-cooker, and add the red lentils, sliced mushrooms, diced pumpkin, rosemary and thyme, along with the red capsicum if using. Give it all a good stir, pop the lid back on and leave the magic to happen.
I served the casserole with some boiled new spuds (with a bit of butter on them) and steamed green beans.
Now for meal idea number two:
Venison pot pies
Ingredients (serves 2 - 4)
leftover venison casserole
a sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry
slices of Edam cheese
frozen peas and corn
You will need 2-4 ceramic ramekins to cook your little pies.
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line an oven tray with baking paper (saves clean up if your mixture overflows), and place your ramekins on the baking paper. Fill the ramekins with venison casserole leaving just under 1 cm of free space. Pop a slice of cheese on the top, then cut out a circle of pastry to fit on the top of the pies, placing one on each.
Bake the pies for around 30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling at the sides, and the pastry is golden brown.
Meanwhile, boil and mash the potatoes, then closer to serving, microwave the peas and corn.
...and for meal idea number three:
Venison & Chickpea pasties
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 can chickpeas, drained
3 sheets of ready-rolled puff pastry
sliced Edam cheese
2 cups leftover venison casserole
salad or coleslaw for 4
Pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Mix the venison casserole and drained chickpeas in a bowl.
Line a couple of over trays with baking paper, and lay out a sheet of pastry on each. Slice the sheets in half diagonally, and place some filling on one half of each triangle, placing a couple of cheese slices on top. Wet the edges of the pastry and fold in half to form a pastie shape - press together with a fork to seal the edges. You can see the process in these photos, with the final baked pasties in the last photo:
Careful not to over-fill the pasties, as they can be hard to fold over and seal! You may have to gently stretch the top anyway, to fit it over and seal properly.
Repeat the above process with the remaining sheet of pastry, and bake the pasties for 35-40 minutes, or until they are golden brown and puffed.
Slice each pastie in half, and serve three halves for each person, along with a salad or coleslaw. You can adjust this serving size to fit the appetites of your family members, and if you need to make another couple of pasties but don't have quite enough venison casserole, you can stretch the mixture a bit more by adding frozen peas or corn.
Feel free to add a splurge of your favourite chutney, and enjoy!