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Carbonnade of Venison

This Saturday (7 March 2009) see the start of a new season in a game which has existed in Scotland for 2,000 years – no, not football but Shinty (camanachd or iomain in modern Scottish Gaelic). A few years ago the sport’s ruling body The Camanachd Association switched the game from being a winter sport to summer. The change has meant fewer cancellations and has led the new digital TV Gaelic channel BBC Alba to announce that five live Shinty matches will be broadcast this summer – in June, July and August. The matches will be broadcast live on Saturdays from 5.30pm – 7.30pm.

Although the game has been played for some 2,000 years in Scotland it wasn’t until 10 October 1893 that the Camanachd Association came into being at a meeting held in the Victoria Hall, Kingussie. The new association standardised the rules for the then existing 33 clubs and has always had one aim above all – To foster, encourage, promote and develop the sport of Shinty. The move to summer has met with success as the 12-a-side teams battle in out for the major league and cup honours – including the premier and coveted Camanachd Cup. Although most clubs are Highland-based there are sides the length and breadth of Scotland.

Although Shinty is unique to Scotland it is similar to Hurling in Ireland and the two countries compete in Shinty/Hurling internationals. Scotland has come out top on the last four international contests. Shinty also gave rise to ice hockey in Canada which arose from early Scots settlers playing Shinty on ice. Visit for more details of a sport which is one of the oldest in the world.

Good luck to the 39 clubs setting out to meet another season’s challenges and the recipe this week has to have a taste of the Highlands. A venison recipe seems appropriate and Carbonnade of Venison is just the ticket.

Carbonnade of Venison

Ingredients:  900g medallions of Venison; 50g olive oil; 700g onions; halved and thinly sliced; 4 garlic cloves, crushed; 2 tbsp. light brown sugar; 3 tbsp. flour; 600ml pale ale or lager; 300ml beef or game stock; 1 fresh bay leaf; 2 large fresh thyme sprigs; salt and freshly ground black pepper; 30ml wine or cider vinegar; chopped parsley, to garnish

Method:  Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F) Gas Mark 2. Cut each medallion horizontally into two chunky pieces.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based frying pan or sauté pan and brown the Venison in batches over a high heat. Transfer to a large casserole, using a slotted spoon.

Add the onions to the oil remaining in the pan and cook for 10 minutes, stirring until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and sugar, mix well and cook gently for 10 minutes or until they begin to brown and caramelise.

Stir in the flour, then gradually add the beer, stirring. Bring to the boil, scraping up any sediment from the bottom of the pan, then pour over the Venison in the casserole.

Pour the stock over the Venison and onions and add the herbs and plenty of pepper. Stir lightly to mix. Bring to a simmer, then cover tightly and cook in the oven for about 1 hour.

Carefully stir in the vinegar and cook for a further 30 minutes or until the Venison is very tender indeed. Check the seasoning. Serve garnished with chopped parsley and accompanied by boiled potatoes and some crunchy Savoy cabbage.

Tip: For a darker stew, use half light ale and half stout.


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