The trail is not so long, at the beginning you have a steep part,called “ski slope”, after that you are ok. I was already at Triglav the highest mountain top in Slovenia, so I’m familiar with hiking. My Slovene guy, lean and without belly was not climbing but hopping and jumping while I was breathing heavily and wheezing and recalling all my long gone fitness. After the “skis lope” mountain trail was more non-climbers friendly, lead you through valleys and hills (without daffodils). Our goal was to get to mountain hut called Gospodična (Miss) Just a few stairs bellow the hut, there is a well, a sort of fountain of youth. So if you wash your face, in it, you stay forever young. But alas I haven’t been thorough, otherwise our fashion photographer Hoyka wouldn’t have spent so much time lifting my face with software…maybe if hardware was used…
At the entrance of the hut, I noticed the variety of rainbow brandies, honey, juniper, raspberry, walnut, blueberry, name the fruit in the region they made a brandy out of it. And it is there with the mission of instant sustainable heating. As I have just moved to Dolenjska, my Slovene was just a few phrases to impress my mother in law, I couldn’t understand what dish was so popular, and the tableware was supposed to be eaten. So we ordered the stew in the “bread bowl”. First time did I see a bowl mad of bread with the cover and a little knob on it. Inside was venison stew a proper comfort food, and eaten by the fireplace. Meat was melting in my mouth, layers of flavors that calm hand of a chef added with care just enough to make you warm but not sleepy, happy and still active to go down in to the valley with that easy feeling of excellent but not heavy meal. And you get to eat the bowl! It was another plus to confirm a good decision to move to Dolenjska. And of course I have learned to make a stew and the bread bowl!
VENISON STEW (Warning guestimate recipe!)
Three type of meat venison, chamois, wild boar, and if you can’t get game, use beef instead)
Onions 2-3 medium ones
Carrots 2 medium
Garlic 4-5 cloves
Pancetta (if you have any smoked ham or sausage will do)
Chilly powder or flakes
Tomatoes cubed, fresh or canned
Whatever your heart feel you should add, for my next stew I will also add something new or change an ingredient.
I started with cubed pancetta, rendered it on the medium heat, added roughly chopped onions, bay leaf and crushed juniper berries (very satisfying when you crush it with the flat side of the knife). The pancetta didn’t render a lot of fat so I added more olive oil (coming from Dalmatia and living in Slovenia, olive oil and sea salt are staple of our kitchen, if you don’t like them add whatever oil and salt you like)
To continue, I added the rest of the chopped veggies, had time to do some chores and check my emails, and it was time to add the meat. When I use game I cubed them and add them without browning it first, the beef I usually cut in much larger cubes and caramelize them first, but that’s me, you do as you used to. And then the wine, the red one, with the fine aroma in the glass, taste of blackberries, caramel and blackcurrant, aftertaste of macerated blueberries mixed with cloves, polyphenols, quercetin, and, at the end, the tannins hit the back of your tongue….of course I’m making this up, I never taste what sommeliers persuade me to taste in wine here and there maybe… anyway I draw two dark red spirals (a quarter of the bottle)in the stew and two or more sips finished for quality control.
The pot was already full and my home made tomato sauce was waiting to be added, another pot, division square and faire, and I could add the tomato sauce, I had around liter and half. Immediately after the sauce I added brown sugar, to balance the acid taste if there is any. I have found out that game meat has a sweet taste, so this move with sugar could be skipped. And all other seasoning should be carefully added, if you use only venison, or only chamois, it can differ substantially, and quantity of onion, white or red influence the taste, I prefer red onions.. After the tomatoes, the heat was on for 5 minutes and then I turned the gas down, slowly cooking (the key of the good stew) and bublling lazy and turning into deep redish-brown colour. You can choose to blend your veggies to get smooth texture, I don’t…
Et voila you have your venison stew.
500g whole wheat flour
yeast dry or fresh
1 tablespoon of sugar
2 tbl of olive oil
My procedure is such
in the sifted flour mixed with salt, I make a well. I put inside water, olive oil and yeast and sugar, mix them inside and form dense and firm dough. (for the bread loaf I prefer much softer one). After at least 5 minutes of kneading put it aside to rest, it will rise but I don’t wait to rise double in its volume. Then repeat the kneading to knock all air out of it and divide it inside the 12-15 cm diameter ramequins. Save some dough to form a little ball at the top of each future to be bread ball..Around 300 g of dough is enough for one. Wait around 20 minutes and put it in the oven 180C for 30 minutes. Check it I made 6 at the time, and it took that much time…the temperature drops as you put a lot of things at room temperature inside used to be hot oven. Have that in mind.
When they are completely cool, cut the cover, take out the soft bread (save it for the bread pudding or dumplings)and press the rest of it against the sides, you don’t want that your bread bowl drinks up the sauce of your stew. Serve it and then expect ooooooos and aaaaaaas, and praises and bragging rights, if the compliments are scarce or none, than bite your kitchen towel instead of saying something you might regret it later, and make the stew one more time, and again and again, and you will perfected it enough that you also might receive a call for a culinary blog.