“‘You can stand by the fire as long as you like. You’ll have food and drink, too. Hot mulled wine and a bowl of venison stewed with onions, and Hobb’s bread right out of the oven, so hot it will burn your fingers.’ Sam peeled off a glove to wriggle his own fingers near the flames…” -A Storm of Swords
After episode 3.6, where Sam longingly describes this stew, I decided to finally get the venison and have a go at it. Fortunately, it coincided with a bit of a cooler spell here in Boston, which suited the heartiness of this stew perfectly.
While this particular description of the stew is fairly limited, there are others throughout the books that contain other tidbits. In other passages, descriptions of Hobb’s venison stew includes carrots and barley, and in the south, it’s stewed with beer. So, everything went into the pot, along with a few more additions of my own.
I used spent grain from brewing (see link below) for the barley component, because I can’t imagine the Night’s Watch letting anything go to waste. It gave the stew a unique texture, and was the source of some of those black flecks you see in the photo. The bacon, I’ll admit, was also my addition, but I don’t think anyone who has read the books can fault me for that. Everything tastes better with bacon. :)
The resulting stew is thick, hearty, and filling- just the thing for a cool night in the North. It’s wonderful with a hunk of rustic bread and a sharp cheese, and a flagon of the same beer that went into the recipe.
Venison Stew Recipe
- 3 strips bacon
- 1 lb. venison (I used ground, but use any small cut you like)
- 2 Tbs. butter, divided
- 2 cloves garlic, diced
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1/2 cup peas
- 3 cups broth
- 1 bottle dark beer (12 oz/335 ml)
- 1 cup spent grain, or other barley of your choice, cooked according to its own directions
- 1 cup small boiler onions, peeled
- 1/2 tsp. smoked salt
- 1/2 tsp. savory, or thyme
- 1 Tbs. flour
Cook the bacon in a medium frying pan. Take out the cooked bacon, reserving the grease, and chop the bacon into small pieces. Brown the venison meat in the bacon grease, then pour it all into a medium pot, along with the bacon bits. In the same frying pan, melt 1 Tbs. butter. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, until it’s not quite browned. Add the carrots and peas, stir to coat with butter, then pour in 1 cup of broth. Cover, and simmer for a few minutes, until the carrots are tender. Add this mixture, along with the rest of the broth, the beer, barley, onions, and seasoning.
If you’d like the stew to be a little thicker, make a roux: melt the remaining 1 Tbs. butter and add to it the 1 Tbs. flour. Stir to combine over medium heat. When the butter-flour looks bubbly and golden (under a minute), begin to add ladlesful of broth, whisking to combine. This should create a thick mixture that can be poured back into your stew. Cook the stew for at least 1 1/2 hours on medium-low heat. Enjoy with some sharp cheese and rustic bread. If you’re using spent grains in the stew, consider also using them in the bread!