It’s blistery cold here in London, it’s been snowing for the last 24 hours and many trains have been delayed or altogether canceled. The whole country is in the state of a national emergency judging by the frequent TV, radio and other media “sever weather” announcements. Every Facebook status update, Twitter feed and any conversation refers to this awful snowfall, yet when I look outside my window this is the picture I see.
Yep, a light dusting of snow. Being a Russian Canadian I need to dig deep to find compassion or understanding for this hysteria. However I have to admit that although my husband and I have experienced much colder weather in our days we found ourselves unprepared for how overwhelmingly ‘chilled to the bone’ this winter day feels! Right now London is wet, windy, snowy and grey and after a long way home the best remedy to combat this misery is the comfort of a warm and homey stew brightened with orange chunks of butternut squash. If that still didn’t peak your interest I know the fact that it’s also made with a reindeer meat would! You are probably wondering where in the world one would find reindeer meat (you can read my story here) but did you know that reindeer also live in North America under the name of caribou? I beg you not to discard this recipe if reindeer meat is not stored in your freezer. Truth be told whether you use reindeer, caribou or plain beef this stew is a winner and your family will love you forever!
- Reindeer steaks-350 gr
- Stewing beef-500 gr
- Italian pancetta (cubed) or unsmoked bacon- 200gr
- Onion- 2 medium
- Carrots- 2 medium or 4-4 baby carrots (cubed)
- Celery- 2 stalks
- Butternut Squash- 1/2 of a medium (cubed)
- Tomato paste-1 tbsp.
- Red Wine-1 cup
- Juniper Berries-3-4 (crushed to release flavour)
- Thyme- leaved of 2-3 sprigs or 1 tsp of dried thyme
- Flour- 1 tbsp
- Garlic- 2 cloves
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 350F/180C.
I like to cook my stews and stew-like dishes in a cast-iron pot. It cooks everything much fast due to the even heat distribution and a heavy lid that traps the heat and moisture producing magical results. If you can’t invest money in the most popular brand like LeCreuset, don’t despair there are other brands that are more affordable like Ikea(worldwide) or Sainbury’s for those living in the UK. I have both of those brands in different sizes and I prefer the Sainsbury’s brand as their pots are enameled and the Ikea ones aren’t.
Add a tablespoon of olive oil to your pot and cook your pancetta on medium-high heat until golden and most of the fat is melted away.
Cube the reindeer steaks and beef into 1″ cubes and add to the pot, sear the meat on each side for 3-5 min for extra flavour.
Peel your onions and slice them, do the same with celery and cut the carrots in big chunks if using the whole ones or half the baby carrots. Add the vegetables, stir everything and cook for 10 min., adding thyme, minced garlic and crushed juniper berries. If you don’t know what juniper berries are look up what gin is made from!
Put your tomato paste in and sprinkle flour, give it another good stir to coat all the ingredients.
Now pour in your wine and top it up with water so the vegetables are just covered, add your butternut squash, stir and add a pinch of both salt and pepper. The reason I add the squash at the end is because I don’t want it to overcook and turn mushy.
At the end of 2 hours your meat should be incredibly tender and delicious. If your stew is too soupy, take the lid off and leave it in the oven for 20-30 min. longer. Serve it with crusty bread or over creamy mashed potatoes. Stay warm!!