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This time last week I was enjoying a morning of venison cookery in the stunning old kitchen at Dunham Massey National Trust. As a volunteer and editor of an internal National Trust newsletter on food I went along to find out what it was all about.
What a wonderful morning. In my opinion there were several things that set this cookery demonstration apart from others:
Firstly, the setting. The event was held in the original old kitchen at Dunham Massey, a room that you would normally wander through on your tour of the house. It is an impressive room, bright with high ceilings, a massive Aga, a beautiful collection of copper pans, and a hefty big wooden workbench.
Secondly, the venison. The meat used in the cookery demonstration came from the deer park – perhaps if you a regular walker at Dunham Massey you might have even passed that same deer that we got to sample.
Perhaps an unconventional Christmas meal, but with only two of us to feed a turkey or goose would be too much, and with some exquisite stewing venison in the freezer from Dunham Massey it seemed only natural to have venison stew.
We bought our venison from Little Heath Farm a few weeks ago when they received a delivery from the National Trust property just down the road. It is nice to know that the main ingredient in our Christmas meal came from within 5 miles and most likely had a lovely life roaming the parkland at Dunham Massey.
With a large part of my University days spent studying Native Americans both in the UK and Canada, it seemed only apt to follow the recipe for venison stew from Jamie’s America book. Based on a Navajo stew, this recipe is incredibly delicious and is the second time we’ve made it.
My only addition was to make some parsley and suet dumpling, which I popped into the stew towards the end of cooking. There is something very moreish about dumplings – I think I could eat a plateful drenched in a couple of spoonfuls of stew liqueur.
Mash potato was made with our allotment grown potatoes, which must be said have been a bit disastrous. Whether it’s the variety, how we’ve grown them, or how we cook them, but the potatoes just disintegrate into soupy glue if not watched carefully.
I have learnt that the trick with them is to watch them carefully in the water, looking for the moment when the outside starts to break down, but leaving them long enough to make sure they are almost cooked through.
This time I put it through my wonderful French mouli that I picked up at the carboot – it was fantastic! With the help of a little cream (maybe a lot…) and butter, and some seasoning, the mash turned out all right.
What did you eat for Christmas dinner?