September 21, 2021
This venison dish was inspired by a recipe called “dive bar veal stew” by Aida Ibiševic of the Balkan Lunch Box. Aida’s stew is light and simple, with tender veal and signature southeastern European flavors, including the heavy use of peppers. She wrote on her blog:
“Veal stew (sometimes it’s just called veal soup) is one of those meals that’s on the (unwritten) menu of almost every kafana (kah-fah-nah) and restaurant … [in the] Balkans. Kafana is what we call an old school bar.”
I adapted Aida’s recipe for venison by using a shoulder from a young deer. However, meat from an older deer would fit in just fine, although you may have to cook it longer.
Unlike Aida’s recipe, I browned the meat to add more flavor, which also gave the stew a darker color. I also kept the meat on the bones. If possible, this is how I prefer to make wild game soups and stews— bones add flavor and also release natural gelatin as they simmer, giving broth a rich texture. Along with the starchiness from the potatoes, this allowed me to skip the flour in Aida’ recipe. This recipe is gluten-free.
You can find Vegeta seasoning mix on Amazon. It is from Croatia, and upon opening it, I was immediately reminded of the smell from a Cup of Noodles, but in a good way. It’s savory and packed with vegetable flavor. You only need a little bit for this recipe, and it’s an all-purpose seasoning mix that can be added to anything in the future.
To view Aida’s original recipe, visit: balkanlunchbox.com/veal-stew-recipe/
How to Make Balkan-Style Venison and Pepper Stew
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours
- 3 ½ pounds venison shoulder (including bones)
- Cooking oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 yellow bell peppers, seeds/ribs removed and sliced
- 2 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and small diced
- 1 ½ tablespoon of Vegeta spice mix
- 1 tablespoon of Hungarian sweet paprika
- 1 quart of beef broth
- 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 1 to 2 cups of water
- 1 large carrot, large diced
- 1 medium yellow potato, peeled and large diced
- Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley
- Cayenne pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Separate venison shoulder into large manageable pieces and pat dry with paper towels—do not remove any silver skin.
- Coat the bottom of a large pot with cooking oil and heat over medium-high. Brown venison in batches until golden on both sides. Then set the meat aside.
- Reduce heat to medium or medium-low, add more oil as necessary to the pot and sweat diced onion for 5-7 minutes or until translucent. Then add sliced yellow peppers and sauté for another 5 minutes. Adjust heat as necessary—don’t let vegetables brown too much.>
- Return all the meat back to the pot, including bones. Then add two small diced potatoes, Vegeta seasoning, paprika, broth, water, and garlic. (Add enough water to submerge all the ingredients.) Scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen up browned bits. Bring to a boil then take off the heat.
- Cover the pot with foil, place the lid on top of the foil, and bake in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
- Next, discard the foil, add carrots and the large diced potatoes, cover with lid and bake for an additional hour, or until venison becomes tender; cooking time will vary depending on the age of the deer. Shred the meat off the bones if you cooked the shoulder as large pieces. Season the stew with chopped parsley, salt and cayenne to taste, and a generous amount of freshly cracked pepper.