Venison Stew, Roast Goose: the Game of Shopping at Aldi
My father worked at Vickers in Barrow during the sixties. It wasn’t a place for fancy gourmand lifestyles. Lunch was potted meat sandwiches wrapped in a tidy greaseproof paper packet, tea was shepherd’s pie. Friday might mean fish and chips and a pint or two of Hartley’s XB at the Old Friends.
But there was one man in the works for whom Friday was too special a day to celebrate down the pub. Friday meant a jaunt to the game merchant and would often mean a roast pheasant, a pigeon pie or a jugged hare. One day the shipbuilders are discussing their plans for the weekend and it emerged that our man had got a haunch of venison.
“Venison!” exclaimed one, “But, isn’t that rather expensive?”
Our man nodded sagely and said some of the wisest words I’ve heard. “It isn’t expensive if you like it.”
The story gets re-told and the obvious pun is put in place which gave us a long running family joke and gives me the title of today’s post.
“Venison, that’s very dear!”
“It’s not dear if you like it!”
It’s another angle on the much quoted line about knowing the difference between price and value. My father was also rather fond of this one and was able to apply it, with great accuracy, well beyond its original distinction between cynic and sentimentalist.
I put the whole quotation in as the kernel is so often taken from the nut that it’s nice to see them all together.
“What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. And a sentimentalist, my dear Darlington, is a man who sees an absurd value in everything, and doesn’t know the market price of any single thing.”
From Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde
I know the market price of venison. Aldi were selling it for less than £6 a kilo during the winter and it has been waiting in the freezer next to a £10 goose. Lent is a couple of weeks away and, as I don’t eat meat during the fast, I have to start clearing out the cold cupboards.
There is little I like more than venison stew. It is as easy to make as a beef stew, has a little more flavour and the meat is so tender that it is a pleasure to savour. No melting on the tongue metaphors in this post. It isn’t how I eat.
It takes up most of the first part of the week and after dining out of restaurant fryers rather more than I would like last week, it is good, wholesome, tasty food. To quote Nephew Fred from Dickens’ Christmas Carol
“I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say God bless it!”
I need good food this week and venison stew provides at least three good meals worth. There is something delightfully old fashioned about enjoying what is left over the next day and the day after.
On day one it is a simple stew served with potatoes and green beans.
One day two we add some dumplings and the treat becomes a feast.
Leeks are the perfect winter vegetable. Dumplings must be a contender for the food that adds the most to a meal for the least amount of effort.
On the third day I finish off the stew free from the distraction of vegetables. I’m sure the stew, enjoyed by toad when selling his (someone else’s) horse in Wind in the Willows, must have tasted a bit like this.
There are some concessions to lax eating. I spend a lot of time working in my office this week and the office come equipped with a grill. So not only do I finally re-start my research on children’s literature, but I also eat an awful lot of toasted cheese. I have it my favourite way; grated cheddar on shop bought sliced bread. I have missed it. Jolly comes to the office with me and sits expectantly. She gets rewarded with the crusts and a decent walk for every ten pages of notes.
On Thursday the week has its highlight. I get to spend the morning with Charlie. His school’s half term is a week behind everyone else’s. We go for a swim that would have been better if the eight pensioners, we were sharing the pool with, hadn’t found a way of completely gridlocking it. You have the choice of blindly swimming through them without giving a chuff or being polite and letting other people go first. Polite people come last in Derbyshire pools.
A haircut and a long chat over a Morrison’s breakfast brought is up to date with how we plan to spend the next few months. We discuss education, sport, writing projects and travel. And then we talk about getting a ball and kicking tee and taking advantage of the sports fields just behind his house.
The second half of the week revolves around a goose.
The liver is chopped small, fried with finely chopped onion in plenty of butter and later orange juice and then blended with more melted butter, cream and pepper and poured into a mini mixing bowl where it is topped with slices of orange and a little more melted butter to seal.
Goose is a fatty bird. I collect this for future roast potatoes. I’m not over impressed with roasting the bird whole. It doesn’t carve well in this way. I feel best results can be obtained by jointing the bird. The carcass provides plenty of stock and a delicious broth. I had thought of curing one of the breasts in the style that was very popular with the Italian Jewish population in the nineteenth century. In the end I pan fry one breast to be served with potatoes and ratatouille. This counteracts the fattiness very nicely. The goose is delicious but the ratatouille is nicer.
The soup is simple. Onion, carrot and celery sweated in a pan and then add two pints of goose stock and a goodly handful of dried peas, lentils and pearl barley. It cooks away quietly for the rest of the afternoon and is perfect with or without bread at supper time.
The other breast becomes a spicy Indian dish to celebrate Friday. Goose on Friday. That’s rather expensive isn’t it?
It’s not dear if you like it.