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Venison in Claret

In last week's Flag in the Wind, Jim Lynch cast doubts on the popularity of Cricket in Scotland, but it is a fact that there are more Cricket Clubs in Aberdeenshire than in Yorkshire! Usually Cricket and Morris Dancing are synonymous with England but there is however a long tradition of both in Scotland. The poet William Dunbar testifies to the popularity of the Morris Dance at the Scottish Court in the Sixteenth Century.

            Sum singis; sum dancis; sum tellis storeis;
            Sum lait at evin bringis in the moreis.
Last week reference was made to the Celtic Beltane celebrations which have lasted throughout the Centuries, but in addition, there grew up the tradition in the Scottish Burghs of celebrating May Day through symbols more associated with the festival in England - May-pole, May Queen and King, games and Morris Dancing. In the Burghs the ceremonies were directed by a "mock" Abbot assisted by a Prior until the Sixteenth century when Robin Hood and his attendant, Friar Tuck, took the place of the Abbot and Prior.
In recent years it has been suggested that the story of the fictitious Robin Hood was indeed based on the exploits of the great Scottish hero William Wallace. A recent book "William Wallace - Robin Hood Revealed" by Anthony & Paul Cooper ( BVM Publishing 12.99 ) looks in depth at the evidence supporting this supposition. They make their argument well and the book also contains a splendid prose version of Blind Harry's epic Fifteenth Century poem on William Wallace. It was Blind Harry's work which inspired the script for the Oscar winning film "Braveheart" starring Mel Gibson as William Wallace.
But, whatever the truth of the tale, undoubtedly William Wallace and "Robin Hood" would both have enjoyed a feast of venison - as would you!
Venison in Claret
Ingredients ( 3-4 servings ) - 1 lb ( 500 g ) venison, shoulder, neck or slices from the haunch; 2 level tablespoons flour seasoned with salt and pepper and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground allspice; 2 tablespoons oil; 1 onion, finely chopped; 1 pt ( 600 ml ) robust claret ; 1 tablespoon rowan jelly, plus extra for serving; seasonings - salt and pepper.
Cut the meat up neatly into bite-size pieces and coat in seasoned flour. Heat the oil in a pan or flameproof casserole and brown the onion, then add the meat and brown well. Sprinkle in any leftover flour. Add the claret and rowan jelly. Bring to a slow simmer, cover and cook, preferably in a slow oven, till the meat is tender, about one-and-a-half hours.
Season and serve with potatoes and rowan jelly.


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