Australian venison is lean, healthy, tasty and easy to prepare. It’s time more of us were enjoying this nourishing, locally produced meat. Make a start with this hearty Hunters Stew recipe from Birdwood Venison.
Australians aren’t really used to seeing venison on their plates, and that’s a shame as it’s lean, healthy, tasty and locally produced. In fact, Birdwood Venison in the Adelaide Hills grows some of the best Australian venison around.
Deer were introduced to Australia in the 19th century, quickly becoming a pest and a popular target for hunters. They get to enjoy eating this tasty game meat regularly, but top Australian venison is also available to the un-armed home cook. Here in South Australia one of the premium producers is Birdwood Venison, who sell their products at the Barossa Farmers Market and online via their Facebook page.
Mike and Nancy Kasprzak have been farming deer for almost 30 years, maintaining a rigorous livestock management plan. Mike is of Polish extraction, and was a keen hunter in his younger days, with fond memories of the delicious game stews his mother would prepare. Attracted by the beauty and intelligence of deer, he began breeding them, but soon discovered that, if he was to actually make a living, he was going to have to sell their meat too.
Taking great care with breeding strategies, the Kasprzaks now have a top quality herd that numbers around 500. Slaughtered and butchered locally, their Australian venison meat is being found in increasing numbers of Adelaide restaurants, as chefs look to this nourishing and accessible protein to diversify their menu offerings.
Mike and Nancy are keen to encourage home cooks to have a go with venison too. Understandably, they eat a lot of venison themselves, and Nancy loves to cook with it. “The simplest and most delicious way to prepare it is to quickly sear the backstraps on a piping hot barbecue”, she says. Like kangaroo, it has almost no fat, so is delicious when served rare, and her favourite summer dish is a lean backstrap dredged in dukkah, seared on all sides, and sliced up on a platter with heaps of fresh, green salad.
This is a meat that equally lends itself well to the long, slow cooking tradition used in a hunter stew. Below you will find the recipe that Nancy uses for Bigos, a traditional Polish stew that is incredibly adaptable, allowing for the addition of whatever meats and foraged treats you might find, and tastes even better after a day or two.
In an exciting new development, Birdwood Venison is now offering a range of locally produced Australian venison smallgoods, including venison bresaola, bacon, ham and a selection of venison sausages which includes chorizo, pepperoni and a traditional landjaeger sausage (which originally was made small enough to fit in the pockets of hikers, fishers and hunters).
As Mike and Nancy look to ease off on long days out in the paddocks, daughter Leila has moved home and is set to take over the reins of a family business she is incredibly, and justifiably, proud of. Her background of studying Agricultural Science at Waite Institute ideally sets her up to build on the 30 years of bloodlines established by her father, and she’s eager to develop and expand their Australian venison offerings.
You can meet the Kasprzaks every week at the Barossa Farmers Market. Have a chat, and grab yourself some of their premium Australian venison and try out this hearty and delicious hunters stew recipe.
Polish Bigos (Hunters Stew)
- 1 kg Birdwood Venison (cuts such as round, silverside or topside work well)
- 150 gms Birdwood Venison Landjaeger (Hunters’ Sausage)
- 200 gms mixed mushrooms (foraged Saffron Pine Mushrooms and Slippery Jacks plus supermarket Swiss Browns and Enoki)
- 100 gms dried wild mushroom (foraged Adelaide Hills Porcini)
- 150 gms prunes, pitted
- 1 bottle good red wine
- 3 onions, chopped
- 500 gms sauerkraut (500g for the faint hearted, 1kg for the bold)
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 juniper berries, crushed
- 1 Tbsp vegetable stock powder
- olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Rehydrate the mushrooms by placing in boiling water for 30 minutes then draining and repeating. Alternatively, we powder our harvested porcinis and use this as required.
- Heat olive oil in a large pan and brown onions and then add the venison and brown all sides.
- Add the sauerkraut, bay leaves, juniper berries, half the wine, half the mushrooms and seasoning – cover all ingredients with water.
- Bring to the boil then reduce the heat, add the mushrooms and any liquid if you rehydrated the mushrooms. Simmer for at least 2 hours. Add the rest of the wine and allow flavours to develop overnight/for several hours without direct heat.
The next day prior to serving
- Ensure there is enough fluid and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the Landjaeger mushrooms and prunes and continue to simmer. Do not let it dry out, top up with water as required.
- After 2 hours add the vegetable stock powder and adjust to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve with hearty winter sides such as mashed potato, pickled forest mushrooms, beetroot and radish salad and fried red cabbage.
Looking for a locally produced dessert to enjoy after your stew? Check out my Lime Cake recipe, using fruit from Woodlane Orchard.