Venison is a word which can generally be made to apply to the meat from any member of the deer family. This can include anything from red deer, to moose, to elk, to springbok and many more. It can be a fairly expensive type of meat to buy - especially when the meat comes from a wild animal as opposed to having been farmed - but when it is subsequently cooked in an appropriate fashion, the eating experience more than justifies the occasional financial indulgence. Long, slow cooking is the key to any venison stew and the addition of traditional Indian spices to make a curry works very well with this lean and tender meat.
Bhuna (sometimes spelled bhoona) is an Indian dish which centers around a spicy sauce made principally from onions and tomatoes. It is generally prepared as a mild to medium recipe but the heat can easily be increased by slightly upping the quantity of spices used. While bhajis are normally made from onions and served as light bite appetizers with a dip, the word literally refers to fritters so these more robust creations made from potato still fall in to the defined category.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
- ¾ pound venison
- 1 medium white onion
- 1 medium red chili
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 tablespoons vegetable or sunflower oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon medium chili powder
- 1 teaspoon medium curry powder
- ½ teaspoon garam masala powder
- 14 ounce can chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
- ½ pint fresh chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon freshly chopped cilantro (coriander leaf), plus extra to garnish
- 1 large baking potato
- 1 medium egg
- 1 tablespoon all purpose (plain) flour
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon canned corn kernels
- 1 tablespoon frozen peas (defrosted)
- 2 teaspoons freshly chopped cilantro
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon medium chili powder
The venison should be chopped in to around one inch chunks. Pour the vegetable oil in to a fairly large pot and place it on to a medium heat. Add the venison and season with salt and pepper. Stir around with a wooden spoon for a minute or two until the pieces of meat are evenly sealed and browned. Remove temporarily to a holding plate with a slotted spoon.
Peel and moderately finely slice the onion. Cut the stalk from the chili, discard and slice the body in to discs. Peel and slice the garlic cloves. Add them all to the pot with the hot oil, along with the spices.
Saute for two or three minutes with the heat at low to medium to both soften the onion slices and cook the harshness off the spices.
Return the venison to the pot and stir it around to evenly coat all the pieces in the spiced oil.
Pour the tomatoes in to the pot and stir to combine.
Pour the chicken stock in to the pot, stir well and turn up the heat. The combination may seem to have an excess of liquid at this stage but this will largely evaporate during cooking. When the liquid starts to simmer, cover the pot and adjust the heat to maintain the lowest simmer you can for two hours. Check regularly, give the pot a stir and if absolutely necessary, add a little more stock or boiling water.
A few minutes before the bhuna is due to be ready, peel the potato and lay a clean dishtowel out on a chopping board. This is because it is essential to get rid of the excess moisture from the potato before you make your batter or the bhajis will not hold together during deep frying.
Coarsely grate the potato in to the center of the dishtowel. Gather up the edges to encase the strands and squeeze/twist as hard as you can at your sink. You may be surprised by how much water actually comes out of the potato.
Put the squeezed out potato in to a fairly large glass bowl. Break in the egg and spoon in the flour. Season with salt and pepper. Stir very well to combine. The batter should be fairly thick though still manageable. If necessary, add a little bit more flour.
The corn, peas and cilantro go in to the bowl next and should be carefully stir folded through the batter.
Measure out the chili and turmeric in to the bowl and give a final but thorough stir.
Put a deep pan of oil on to reach a fairly high heat. Alternatively, use a dedicated deep fryer. Grab two dessert spoons to use in order to quenelle the batter in to fritter shapes (see short video below for assistance).
Stir the cilantro in to the bhuna and simmer for a further couple of minutes only. Turn off the heat and leave to rest while you cook the bhajis.
You should get six to eight fritters from this quantity of batter but it's important not to overload the frying pan. This would cause the oil temperature to be lowered and the bhajis to absorb the oil rather than fry in it, rendering them soggy. Plan therefore to fry in two batches. They will take four to five minutes in the hot oil before they become a burnished golden brown color and crispy on the outside.
Drain the bhajis on a plate covered with kitchen paper for a couple of minutes after they are removed from the hot oil.
The bhuna sauce should by now be rich and thick, perfectly coating the chunks of venison.
Lift three or four potato bhajis to each serving plate.
Spoon the venison bhuna along side the bhajis and garnish with the remaining chopped cilantro.