Forgotten venison mince lurking in the freezer would be perfect with a creamy mushroom sauce for a stuffed squash dish, says Tim Maddams. Serves four.

Venison mince. I am a terror for saving little packs of venison mince for a rainy day. I pop them in the freezer and then forget about them.

It was when one of these decided to tumble out of the freezer on to my foot, while I was searching for a steak or two, that I had my eureka moment. The idea of combining minced venison with a creamy mushroom sauce came into my mind.

This is nothing new. Creamy sauces have been around as long as cows have been milked and probably longer, but it’s unusual for me to go down this route. I am normally rather anti-cream in most of my cookery. But I have been eating so much veg recently that a small part of my being was crying out for decadence, calories and cholesterol.

It’s OK, though. I have stuffed this mixture inside a vegetable and that makes it practically a health food, right? And it’s got nuts on, so it’s basically vegan, too.

This may, at first glance, sound like a fancy recipe, but really it’s just a nice creamy venison sauté with loads of wild mushrooms popped inside a baked squash then reintroduced to the oven. It does take a while to make, but that is mostly down to getting the squash roasted.

Choose small squashes if you’re going to make a small amount, but you could go mad and stuff a whole pumpkin with this if your oven is big enough. I’ve used some little pattypan squashes as they cook quickly and look quite cool in a one-per-person kind of way.

Recipe for venison and wild mushroom stuffed squash

Ingredients

  • 4 patty pan squashes
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • A sprig of thyme
  • 2 leaves of sage
  • 400g mixed wild mushrooms, or a combination of ordinary mushrooms and oyster mushrooms
  • 400g minced venison
  • 1 dTsp flour
  • 1 tsp French mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • A dash of brandy
  • 200ml milk
  • 100ml double cream
  • 50g chopped hazelnuts
  • 25g breadcrumbs

Method

  1. First, put the squashes in the oven to roast. Leave them whole, rub with a little olive oil, season, place in a hot oven (190°C) and roast until tender. They should be on the verge of collapse, but it should still be possible to cut off the tops, scoop out any visible seeds and fill with hot, creamy venison.
  2. While the squashes are cooking, heat a medium-sized frying pan on the stove and arrange the other ingredients nearby. Chop the onion and sweat it in the pan with a little butter, some salt and pepper, a pinch of fresh thyme leaves and two chopped sage leaves. Once the onions have softened, remove them from the pan and sauté the wild mushrooms in a mix of olive oil and butter. Season and put them in the dish with the onions.
  3. Lower the heat a little. Add the minced venison and a little more butter to the pan used for the onions and mushrooms. Cook for a minute or two before adding the flour, mustard, chopped garlic and seasonings. Cook until the venison looks done and starts to fall apart a little.
  4. Add the brandy and cook that out for a minute or two. Add the milk a little at a time to make a thick sauce around the venison mince. Put the onion and mushrooms back in. Add the cream and bring to a simmer.
  5. Taste the mixture and season again if necessary. Turn off the heat and leave the mix in the pan to keep warm.
  6. Remove the squashes from the oven, decapitate them and scoop out the guts. Fill the cavities with the warm venison mixture. Top them off with chopped hazelnuts and breadcrumbs before cranking the oven up to maximum and flinging them back in to finish. They will need about 10 minutes. I suggest serving them on whatever they were baked in as they will be tricky to manage. I like to serve a dash of spicy roasted chilli sauce on the side.