Songs from the Wood

This time we’re going to deal with some very wild ingredients – venison and mushrooms – even though they’re probably all farmed anyway. A bit more than half of this country is covered in forest, so it’s not far fetched to want to cook food that gives hints of harsh Scandinavian nature.

The dish cooked in this post was actually caused by the last post because we were hanging out in the frozen stuff aisles of the local grocery store, trying to decide which fish to buy. Across the aisle from the fish were the game section, containing some very Scandinavian products such as renskav – frozen and thinly sliced reindeer meat (‘skav’ means chafe, but a more accurate translation would probably be ‘shavings’) and what we’re using today – hjortskav (venison shavings).  I marveled for a while at how comparatively cheap the venison was, until I realized that it was imported from New Zealand, at which point it was already bought and brought home.

Second fiddle is played today by the Oyster Mushroom, which is native to Sweden, although not growing wild at this particular time of the year of course. It’s one of the most cultivated mushrooms in the world though, so it’s fairly easily available nowadays, and while more expensive than button mushrooms it’s about half the price it was when I first encountered it in a store, about ten years ago.

Thirdly there is the time honored staple of Swedish eating – roots. Today one from the Andes, one from  Bactria and two from the Mediterranian. I’m talking of course about potato, carrot, parsnip and onion.


To sum up what the goal with today’s exercises is: A lightly stewed fry-up of venison and mushrooms, served with fried root vegetables. It’s going to be fairly similar to a hash or other dishes that throw stuff together. But first things first. It’s time to play that old game of slice and dice with the roots, although leave the onion for later. The plan is to parboil slightly in order to avoid unnecessary dryness later when the veggies have been oven baked. I can warmly recommend these firm fine Inova potatoes I used. Herbs and such can be added to the boiling water. Also, be rather generous with the salt since oven baked root veg like these since salt added after cooking tend to bounce off unless the veggies have wallowed in fat.

When the roots have hit the oven, clean the pan and put sliced mushrooms in it. Dry fry them for a couple of minutes with a pinch of salt to draw out some of the liquid. This is done in order to avoid sealing a lot of excess water in the mushrooms which will happen if seared with fat directly. Doing so might cause the mushrooms to get an odd texture that’s both slimy and chewy at the same time. The observant image analyst will notice that there’s not just oyster mushroom in the pan but also some leftover button mushrooms. Images show shrooms before and after dry frying.

Now it’s time to add fat, onions and venison to the pan. Stock cube, a splash of red wine and some thyme wouldn’t hurt either. I’ve cut up the venison into smaller stacks to make searing it in a pan with various other stuff easier. If it’s to fry on it’s own that won’t be necessary since it just falls to pieces after a while anyway.

When everything is fried to satisfaction it might be time to adjust the seasoning. One can also wait with that until after adding the crème fraîche which is the next step. It’s been brought to my attention that crème fraîche isn’t as well known globaly as it is here (and I’m gladly assuming that not all of my readers are from Sweden). It’s basically a thicker, fattier, less acidic sour cream that doesn’t curdle when heated. The Wikipedia article is rather good.

After adding crème fraîche and probably a good dose of black pepper, bring the whole thing to boil and simmer briefly. With any luck the potato mixture will have finished roasting about now and everything will be ready to serve. Empricial studies conducted on the fly suggest that lingonberry preserves or some sort of jelly is a good condiment for this.



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