Once upon a time, when clan Paleovirtus lived in Belgium, we were on a visit to the Plankendael zoo.
Eventually we made our way to the “Nordic” enclosure. Belgians were seemingly both charmed and amused to see us chatting away to the animals in Swedish.
Amusement quickly turned to a mixture of horror and disgust when they then realised that we were actually discussing how tasty they would be.
Oh how I wish I had been given a shiny coin of even modest value every time that someone not familiar with Scandinavian cuisine has exclaimed “What!? You’ve eaten Rudolf!?” Yes. Yes I have. He was delicious, too. Sorry, kids.
Reindeer form a very important part of the way of life of the Sami People, the indigenous people of the far North. As well as providing food from its meat, the reindeer also give the Sami people clothing and shelter from its skin and fur, and tools from its horn and bone.
Before the coming of the snow-scooter they were also used for transport. It’s been said that asking a Sami how many reindeer he owns is as rude as going up to a complete stranger and casually asking them how much cash they have in their bank account.
One of the most memorable day trips we ever made was between the Swedish towns of Kiruna and Jokkmokk, by bus. It was close to New Year’s Eve, and so during the time of the Polar Night. At the brief period of Polar Twilight, close to noon, we could see large herds of reindeer browsing by the side of the road.
While in Jokkmokk, we discovered the delights of reindeer pizza….
This recipe is my Paleo version of a traditional Swedish reindeer dish, renskav.
The original would have been quite heavy on the dairy – fried in butter, and then finished off with cream.
Here I fry the meat in olive oil, and finish off the dish in a tomato-purée based sauce. Although quite a bit of a departure from the expected norm, Mrs. Paleovirtus was more than happy with the finished dish. If the Swede’s happy, then I’m happy, too.
Paleo Renskav - Sautéed Reindeer
- 720g frozen renskav reindeer meat – see Notes
- 30g dried chanterelle mushrooms – see Notes
- 1 large red onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 tsp mild paprika powder
- about 20 dried juniper berries, lightly bruised
- 3 tbsp tomato purée
- olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 250g frozen lingonberries
- 2 tbsp honey
- about 4 tablespoons of water
- Remove the reindeer meat from the freezer, so that when it comes to the time to cook it, it is half-defrosted.
- Make the lingonberry jam. Place the water and the lingonberries in a small saucepan. Bring up to a boil, and then drop to a very low simmer.
- Add the honey, and stir well. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the lingonberries have broken down, and you have a jam-like consistency. This should take about half an hour or so.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat. Place somewhere cool. Ideally, the jam should be slightly below room temperature when serving.
- Place the dried mushrooms into a large bowl. Cover with plenty of hot water. Leave to soak for at least 15 minutes, preferably longer, then drain thoroughly, reserving the soaking water. Gently squeeze out any excess liquid, and set aside.
- Slice the blocks of reindeer meat into 3 strips along their length, and then cut each strip into 4 equal parts. This will help the reindeer meat flake into small, thin pieces.
- Heat about 2 tbsp of olive oil in a non-stick wok. Add the onion, and stir fry until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes or so.
- Add the juniper berries, garlic, thyme, and paprika. Stir fry for a further 3 minutes or so.
- Add the reindeer meat. Stir well, and continue to stir fry until the meat has lost its raw colour, about 10 minutes or so.
- Add enough of the mushroom soaking liquid to half-cover the meat mixture. Bring up to a simmer, and then add the tomato purée. Simmer, stirring often, for 10 minutes, adding more of the mushroom soaking liquid if needed.
- Remove the wok from the heat. Serve, together with the lingonberry jam on the side, and a generous dollop of cauliflower mash.
- Renskav was traditionally made by the Sami by drying reindeer meat. You would then shave off strips of meat with your knife as and when required. The renskav I use here is made from small, thin bits of reindeer steak or back meat, which are pressed together and then frozen. If you are unable to obtain anything similar to renskav, then reindeer mince would work in its place, although you would have a different texture.
- As you might be able to see from the picture above, rather than being in small, thin postage stamp sized pieces, the reindeer has more of a mince-like texture. This is because I allowed it to defrost slightly too much. As I say above, when you start to cook it, the meat should ideally be half defrosted only.
- I used dried Chanterelle mushrooms here because the fresh ones available weren’t really up to scratch. This amount of dried mushrooms equates to 250g of fresh mushrooms, if you can get your hands on them.