I’m back. It’s been a while, a whole month in fact, but I’m back. Since you last heard from me I have been busy with various projects, amongst them making the full transition from autumn to winter; for it is so: winter has arrived in Sweden.
The leaves are gone and the garden has taken on its winter hue of brown, wet and wilting; a lifeless mass of soggy vegetation, bare branches and colourless, damp vegetation. The mornings are dark, the evenings, too. It’s a significant and toughly depressing transition: from September autumn to November winter. The first snow hasn’t graced us yet, but time is ticking.
Food-wise, it’s a tricky time. The bounty of Swedish autumn – game, mushrooms, wild berries and root vegetables – is still very much with us, but only just. Still, all is not lost.
October brought with it our last grill of the year (my beautiful Weber gas grill is cleaned and snugly tucked in beneath its winter coat); the final rinsing and compost treating of the vegetable patch; a good dose of cold and flu and this year’s first stew: a long awaited treat.
In true Swedish-style I chose elk (moose to you across the pond) as the meat of choice for 2012’s stew premier. Last Saturday was the appointed date; appropriately enough, the day after I cleaned and retired the grill for the year. I had already picked up a chunk of elk breast, the Wednesday before; for good reason.
Elk, like most wild game, is relatively light in the fat department. That’s what constant wandering will do to you. Even the best stewing cuts benefit from a good dose of marinade. I cut up the meat into golf-ball-sized chunks on Wednesday and put it into a marinade of red wine and herbs, in the fridge, all the better to cook it on Friday night, leaving an all-important day of rest to soak up all the flavours: the perfect first winter stew.
The family loved it. It was a glorious, rich and darkly-flavoured start to the Swedish winter. Just what we needed.
- 1 kilo breast of elk, cut into cubes
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 bottle red wine
- 1 onion, halved and sliced
- 4 carrots cut into thumb-sized chunks
- 2 tablsp flour
- Half a litre of beef stock
Marinade the elk meat in the red wine and thyme for three days
Drain the meat, saving the marinade
Brown the elk in hot oil in a frying pan to give it a good crispy coating and remove from the pan
Fry the carrots and onion until the onion has softened
Trannsfer the meat, carrots and onions to a thick-based casserole dish
Splash a little of the reserved marinade into the hot frying pan and scrape up the residue from the elk
Stir in the flour with the meat and vegetables in the casserole dish
Pour in the marinade and a little stock do the meat is just covered
Place in an oven at 170C for about 1 hour