Tuesday was a miserable night, calling for slow cooked and warming food – a venison ragoût. On nights like we have had this week; where the wind shakes the windows in their frames; there are metres of freshly fallen snow in some parts of the country; we’ve had thunder and lightening and unrelenting rain, it was such a pleasure to stand at the stove and slowly put together this meal.

In the world of food blogging there appears to be a constant need to reinvent the wheel, to take old favourites then add a bit of this, a touch of that so the original recipe is almost lost. I think this is why baking recipes are held in such high regard on blogs; swap dates for currants, white sugar for brown, all-purpose flour for whole wheat and, hey, we have something new and exciting. This is how we develop new ideas and new ways of cooking, so please, don’t get me wrong, many baking blogs share some wonderful recipes. I like the sound of these, and this, and these.

But we shouldn’t forget the everyday good things: the soups, stews, salads and grains, the humble vegetable. When prepared with tenderness and thought, they too can offer something exciting. After all, most of us don’t just eat cake. This venison ragoût with the sweetness of bacon and prunes and the subtly rich flavour of the meat is a deeply satisfying dish for a cold winter’s night.

I served the ragoût with brussel sprouts, halved and sautéed with a knob of butter, a half teaspoon honey, grating of lemon zest and a splash of hot water. Once the sprouts were lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes, I added a handful of trimmed green beans and continued to toss for a further 5 minutes.

Venison Ragoût
Barely adapted from the Silver Fern Farms recipe

1 tablespoon oil
2 medium onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
500 gram venison fillet, diced
1 teaspoon paprika
a few sprigs of thyme
2 rashers bacon
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
a handful of prunes or cranberries
1 tablespoon tomato paste
100ml red wine
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
zest of a lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
100ml stock

Heat the oilve oil in a frypan or casserole dish (suitable for stove-top use and with a lid). Add onions and garlic and sauté until soft. Put onions in a bowl and set to one side. Turn heat to medium-high and pan fry the venison with the paprika, thyme and pepper until lightly browned. Reduce heat and add chopped bacon and vegetables. Cook for a further 5 minutes. Add onions back to the pan with the prunes or cranberries. Add tomato paste, red wine, vinegar, lemon zest and mustard and stock. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer for one hour or place casserole dish in a pre-heated oven to 170°C for an hour.

Serve with potatoes or rice or green vegetables.