Bilberry juice can be treated like red wine, adding an extra depth of flavour to the venison without overpowering it or making the dish too sweet. Swedes would normally use fresh wild mushrooms for this dish, but dried mushrooms work just as well.
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 75 minutes
20 g (1 oz) dried wild mushrooms
2 tbsp butter
600 g (1¼ lb) game, such as venison, diced
1 onion, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
75 g (3 oz) another root vegetable such as parsnip or celeriac, finely diced
2 rasher (slice) of smoked bacon, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 juniper berries, crushed
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
120 ml (½ cup) bilberry juice, such as blåbär 100% or bleu d'ici
120 ml (½ cup) cream plus 3-4 tbsp extra
450 g (lb) gnocchi
2 tbsp bilberries, as a garnish
1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley, as a garnish
1. Place the dried mushrooms in a jug and pour about 120 ml (1 cup) hot water over them, then leave them to soak for 20 minutes or so.
2. Melt half the butter in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add half the meat and cook until nicely browned. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Repeat with the rest of the butter and meat.
3. Reduce the heat and add the onions and fry until softened, but not brown.
4. Add the garlic, carrot, parsnip, bacon and fry for a couple of minutes until softened.
5. Season to taste and add the thyme leaves and crushed juniper berries.
6. Return the meat to the pan and add the mushrooms and their liquid, the bilberry juice and the cream. Cover and simmer on a gentle heat, stirring occasionally until the meat is tender. The exact time will depend of the type and cut of meat, so this could take anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes.
7. When the meat is ready, bring a large pan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi and cook according to the instructions on the packet.
8. Meanwhile, add a little more cream to the stew and stir it in, bringing it back to a gentle simmer. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
9. Microwave the bilberries for the garnish to just heat them through (about 90 second on a medium setting).
10. Stir half the gnocchi into the stew. Divide the stew between four plates or dishes and top with the remaining gnocchi. Garnish with the bilberries and parsley.
• If the dried mushrooms are not very clean then discard the liquid in step 6 and add fresh water to the pan instead. (Even dried mushrooms are occasionally gritty.)
• The vegetables should be finely diced so that they disintegrate during cooking and flavour the sauce.
• If the stew seems a bit dry top it up with a little more bilberry juice and water, but it should be a stew not a soup!
Recipe courtesy of John Duxbury, founder and editor of Swedish Food.