Slow-cooked venison with wheat berries

Slow-cooked venison with wheat berries

The Islands of Greece
Steven Joyce

Cooking with wheat was a technique used by some cooks to preserve meat during the Second World War. Meat would be cooked and the wheat berries mixed with the fat that rose to the top of the dish, sealing it and preserving it for up to a few months. On the island where I first ate this dish, it is illegal to hunt deer, and I was told it was beef...which it definitely was not.


Quantity Ingredient
700g stewing venison, diced
4 tablespoons plain flour
a little olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped, to taste
120ml red wine
400g passata
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried greek oregano
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
2 sprigs rosemary leaves, finely chopped
125g wheat berries
chopped parsley leaves, to serve


  1. Preheat the oven to 140ºC. Dust the venison with the flour. Using an ovenproof casserole dish, brown the venison over a fairly high heat in the oil, in batches, as overcrowding the pan will result in stewed rather than browned meat, which will give the stew less flavour. Remove the meat from the pan once it is browned and set aside. In the same pan, reduce the heat to its lowest and cook the onions gently for 8–10 minutes until just beginning to brown. Then add the carrots, celery and garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping any burnt bits off the base.
  2. Return the meat to the pan, add the passata and cook for 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper and herbs, then 600 ml of water. Return to the boil, then put the lid on the casserole and place in the oven. Cook for 2 hours. The meat should be almost falling apart.
  3. Add the wheat berries and 120 ml of water (or less if the pan is very full of liquid), stir, and return to the oven.
  4. Cook for a further 25–45 minutes, checking the pan occasionally. The dish is ready when the wheat has softened and a chunk of the meat can be pulled apart with a spoon. Stir in the parsley. Serve with wilted greens or a crisp salad.
The Islands of Greece
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