Marie Cooks Skyrim: Venison Stew

When my brother in law tagged a deer last fall, he and my sister promised me some to cook with. I was a little anxious because I had never cooked with venison before. I wanted to do something different – I didn’t want to make any old beef recipe and simply substitute venison, I wanted to choose something that would compliment the venison. Rob gave me a small tip roast, and after comparing a lot of different recipes online, I eventually settled on this one from Jamie Oliver. As I was cooking it, the aroma of juniper and rosemary mingled in my kitchen – I don’t know that I would have ever suspected them of going together, but they do fantastically. My only error was that because I only had a small amount of meat, I reduced the rest most of the recipe by a quarter… but forgot to reduce the spices I put in, and as a result it was overpowering. Still, the meat was tender and delicious and I would love to try to make venison stew again in the future.

Venison Stew
Serves 6

4 tablespoons plain flour
800g (1.5-2lbs) quality stewing venison, cut into 2cm (or 1 inch) chunks
olive oil
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 sticks celery, trimmed and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon juniper berries, crushed in a pestle and mortar
2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
1 Tablespoon butter
6 sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley (separate the stalks and the leaves)
2 beef stock cubes
600g (1-1.5lbs) small new potatoes, scrubbed clean, larger ones halved
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

  1. Dust a chopping board with 2 tablespoons of flour and a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper, and toss your chunks of meat through this mixture until well coated. Heat a large pan on a high heat, add a few glugs of olive oil and fry your meat for 3 minutes to brown it. Add your chopped onions, carrots, celery, crushed juniper berries, rosemary and the butter. Add a few tablespoons of water, give everything a good stir, then put the lid on the pan and let everything steam for 4 to 5 minutes.
  2. Take the lid off so your meat and vegetables start to fry, and stir every so often for 5-10 minutes. Chop your parsley stalks finely, and once the onions start to caramelize, add them to the pan with your remaining 2 tablespoons of flour and your crumbled stock cubes. Stir, and pour in enough water to cover the mixture by a couple of inches. Put the parsley leaves aside for later.
  3. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to medium low so that the stew is just simmering. Add your potatoes and slow cook with the lid slightly askew for at least 2 hours or until the meat falls apart easily. You can add a splash of water if you think it looks too dry.
  4. Put your chopped garlic in the middle of a chopping board. Add most of your parsley leaves with a teaspoon of sea salt and half a teaspoon of black pepper. Chop everything together so you get a rough paste. Add this to the stew and stir through. Chop the last of the parsley leaves and sprinkle over before serving.

Slow Cooker Southwest Lentil Soup

I love crockpot meals. I love throwing ingredients in the morning and coming home to a delicious meal ready made for me. Joe and I like to make crockpot meals on Wednesdays (which is Dungeons and Dragons night) so that we don’t have to worry about cooking when we are also meeting up with a bunch of other people in different time zones online. Lately, I’ve really wanted to find more vegetarian slow cooker recipes, which lead me to try this soup. Joe and I both liked it a lot and because it’s so easy we will certainly make it again often!

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Pi Day Hand Pies – Butternut Squash, Sage, and Parmesan

Along with Star Wars Day (May the 4th), Pi day (3.14) is one of the more popular geeky “holidays.” My chemistry teacher in high school preferred Mole Day (10-23) while others are devout observers of Free Comic Book Day (the first Saturday in May), and although my anniversary falls on International Talk Like a Pirate Day, my personal favorites may be Tolkien Reading Day (March 25th – the day the Ring was destroyed) and Hobbit Day (September 22 – Bilbo and Frodo’s shared birthday.) The big perk of Pi Day is, of course, getting to lean into the obvious pun and eat a lot of pie. Perhaps a round pie is more appropriate – you can calculate the circumference of your pie using pi! But this year on Pi Day I happened to make hand pies.

These hand pies are filled with a rich and flavorful mixture. The sweet butternut squash and red onions, earthy sage, nutty Parmesan, and toasty pine nuts all blend together and complement each other. I had this recipe bookmarked for years before I was finally was a confident enough cook to make them, but they are actually quite simple to make! Once I had finally made them, I was sure to make them again, soon. These will be a new favorite at home for me.

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Marie Cooks Skyrim: Juniper Berry Crostata

When looking at the list of foods in Skyrim, Juniper Berry Crostata always seemed like it would be a challenge. Juniper berries are pungent, and an entire dessert made of them would taste overpowering. I spent a while looking up recipes that included juniper to see what flavors might go together… and then one day I saw it. In a listicle of recipes using juniper, I saw a reference to a honey-glazed pear and plumb pie with juniper berries. Perfect, I thought. But the link didn’t work and no matter how much I looked for the recipe online, it was nowhere to be found. So I went and wrote a recipe myself, using 4 or 5 other recipes as guidelines. I sat on it for a while, unsure of myself. Last weekend, however, I finally made it. I was thrilled with how it turned out – the flavors of the pie were perfectly balanced and the juniper came through every so often with a sharp little surprise. My husband (formerly a professional baker for 10 years) said it was one of the best baked goods he ever had and couldn’t stop raving about how good it was. I’m so pleased with how it turned out and so excited to share it with you.

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Flavor-packed Louisiana Creole Food – Jambalaya

Because Mardi Gras is such a big celebration is New Orleans, it’s not uncommon to see Cajun and Creole food prepared around Fat Tuesday, even if you don’t live in Louisiana. We may be past Fat Tuesday, but I’ve been thinking about making Jambalaya for the last couple weeks and finally had a chance to do so.

Jambalaya is a meat and rice dish traditional in the Creole and Cajun cultures of Louisiana. While they have a lot of similarities – both are spiced and rely on the “Holy Trinity” of onion, celery, and bell pepper – there are differences between Creole and Cajun food. The Creoles were descendants of French and Spanish colonists who had mixed French, African American and Native American ancestry. Creole food is considered “city food” and contains ingredients such as tomatoes, butter, and herbs. The Cajuns were French Canadians expelled from Nova Scotia who eventually settled in the bayous and intermarried with everyone there. Cajun food is considered “country food” and uses no tomatoes, oil instead of butter, and lots of peppers.

Jambalaya is one of my dad’s favorite foods to make, and I also love making it! Because my jambalaya is a mash-up of a number of different recipes, I don’t think I’ve ever made it the same way twice, but I have definitely overheard my husband bragging about how good my jambalaya is. This Creole-style “red” Jambalaya is the version I made most recently.* Every time I make this, I am flabbergasted at how flavorful it is – every mouthful is amazing. Maybe someday I’ll try a Cajun “brown” Jambalaya, but for now I love this version enough to keep making it again.

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Cooking In Season: Winter Squash and Leek Risotto

This past year for Christmas, Joe gave me a cookbook I’ve been interested in checking out for a while: Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden is all about, yes, cooking in-season vegetables. I immediately read through the cookbook including the spring, early summer, mid summer, late summer, and fall sections. Then I bookmarked all the recipes in the “winter” section that I wanted to try right away.

Risottos often catch my eye on recipe blogs and in restaurants, but too be honest, I often find them boring – the flavor can be one-note and the texture a bit like baby food. Not so with this winter squash and leek risotto. The squash, leeks, wine, cheese, and spices created beautiful layers of flavor and the leeks gave it texture. Joe and I enjoyed this a lot and agreed we should make it often.

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Marie Cooks Skyrim: Chicken Dumplings

Fantasy is often stereotyped for excessive descriptions, including descriptions of food. Who could make it through The Chronicles of Narnia without wanting to find out what Turkish Delight tastes like? Or read A Game of Thrones without craving a bowl of beef and barley stew? I am certainly not the only one who has thought so… you could create a library of cookbooks written solely to give people a taste of fictional worlds. The summer before last, I was at the Renaissance Faire and was tempted by a bookseller and several fantasy-themed cookbooks by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel. It should be obvious how my checkbook fared against that temptation.

My recreation of Skyrim’s chicken dumplings is adapted from this book. The filling is flavorful – sweet from the carrots and roasted leeks, spring-like from the dill and fennel, balanced with richness from the cream. I’ve made these 3 times already, and will definitely keep making them.

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Earl Grey Tea Cookies

I love Earl Grey tea. My dad always had some in the house and he would waft the smell from the jar of tea leaves and sniff deeply every time he took the jar out of the cabinet. We always had some with us on our camping trips and the memory of sitting at a rough wooden table outside with an enameled mug full of hot Earl Grey is one that I think of often.

Lately, I’ve been wanting some small sweet thing to eat each night after dinner and landed on making these cookies, made with tea leaves. They were very quick and easy to make, with a short ingredient list and I will happily make them again.

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