08 December 2012

Venison and Winter Squash Tagine


If this were a scratch and sniff photograph, you would be in seventh heaven right now. Imagine a meaty cinnamon and paprika scent that has a hint of sweetness and the pungence of the fresh cilantro.
This dish is just what a cold raw winter day demands ...

SB and his hunting buddies brought home the goods this year - a 180 lb. buck to be exact. That translates to just over 80 lbs. of various cuts of meat wrapped, labelled and placed in our freezer and that's after sharing some of the meat with SB's fellow hunters. We are feeling really blessed, as our meat bill will be much lower this winter and our children will be able to take some great cuts of venison home to their apartments when they visit at Christmas! It's the rule of the hunt to share the wealth and all the kids like venison, so SB and I can relax and know that the deer's life won't be wasted one bit ... but back to this tagine!

I found this recipe for a beef and squash tagine in the latest Cooking Light recipe round-up magazine and knew that I'd have to work it a bit to make a venison dish. All the spices and flavours work very well with the deer meat, but the cook time on venison must always be kept short. Venison is an ultra lean meat and tends to dry out and become mealy when over cooked. So ... my mantra is  'hot, fast, and very pink' when cooking it.

This recipe requires a marinating time with a spice rub, a fast sear on all sides and then, the meat is removed from the pan and set aside while the rest of the dish is put together. The meat and its juices go back in for just a few minutes to warm it sufficiently before serving. There was just enough time for the spices that coated the meat to mix into the tomato and broth sauce ... mmm. It was perfect served over top a side of couscous with scallions and pine nuts.

Ugh! Wintertime lighting does not do a thing for food photography ... and when the photographer is hungry, aesthetics go right out the window. I did want to share this dish, though, for those who have access to venison, as it seems there is always a need for different ways of preparing it! So try this spicy take ... I think you might enjoy it! We certainly did!


Venison and Winter Squash Tagine
adapted from a recipe in Cooking Light Dinner Tonight! magazine

Serves 4 to 6


1 lb. venison stew meat, cut into 1-inch bits
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. minced ginger root
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
¾ tsp. kosher salt
3 tbsp. olive oil
4 good-sized shallots, peeled and sliced into thin shards
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
¾ c. chicken broth – low sodium is best
1 – 14.5 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes
2 tbsp. tomato paste
3 c. butternut squash cubes
¼ c. chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Making the Dish:

  1. Place the venison in a small bowl with the paprika, cinnamon, ginger, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Toss until the meat bits are all coated with spices. Refrigerate for about an hour.
  2. Prepare the vegetables and have them ready by the stove.
  3. Heat a tagine over medium high heat, adding the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the venison bits and sear on all sides. Cook the meat for only two to three minutes.
  4. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  5. In the same oil, cook the shallots and garlic for about two minutes, tossing constantly.
  6. Pour in the tomatoes, chicken broth and tomato paste, stirring to get the spicy meaty bits off the pan.
  7. Add the squash chunks, cover and lower the heat to a simmer.
  8. Simmer until the squash is just tender.
  9. Add the venison and its juices to the simmering tagine, cover and let the venison heat back up.
  10. Turn the tagine out onto a platter and sprinkle on the fresh cilantro.
  11. Serve immediately with a side of couscous.






  1. It looks delicious, but . . . I've only had venison once and it was gamey, but . . . I will say I'd give this dish a try if it was prepared by you!

    I love your mantra about sharing your hunt!

    1. Mary ... I've learned that when you prepare the venison meat for cooking, you must trim off as much of the fat as possible because it's in the fat that the gamey flavour sits and gets released when the meat cooks. Sometimes, though, with certain flavours, you want the gameiness - like with deep red wine sauces, or woody mushroom and onion sauces or heavy chili sauces. We love our venison! I would gladly make you a few dishes to sample!

  2. oh man i'm in heaven and it's not even scratch and sniff... are we on a venison week you and I?... love the way you've cubed everything so perfectly... it's divine and I want some of this warming goodness now... on my way...

  3. Love to find a good recipe for my tagine and this one has to be perfect. I really think I Can smell it; hummmm good.

  4. That is JUST a beautiful plate of food and I LOVE adding squash or pumpkin to meat casseroles! Yours looks so comforting and colourful.....an excellent dish! Karen

  5. That is such a beautiful plate and I had to chuckle that we both fixed tagine the same week! I guess us girls love our rich and spicy stews. The venison and squash look incredible nestled together in perfect little cubes.

    I WOULD LOVE to sit at your dinner table and eat venison with you one day :)

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  6. I can only imagine the aromas without the scratch and sniff. I love the draw of all the veggies in this as well, and hey it's good for you!

  7. As a kid, I ate venison a lot. But alas, I no longer know any hunters...so it's been so long since I last ate it that I can't even pin down a date =(. Your stew definitely has my mouth watering with its rich color, and I just imagine, flavor. Yum!


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