23 December 2012

Herne the Hatstand (Venison Sausage) casserole

The title of this scrumptious venison sausage casserole could stand some explanation, I think!

According to Wikipedia, "In English folklore, Herne the Hunter is a ghost associated with Windsor Forest and Great Park in the county of Berkshire. His appearance is notable in the fact that he has antlers upon his head.

The earliest written account of Herne comes from Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor in 1597:
Sometime a keeper here in Windsor Forest,
Doth all the winter-time, at still midnight,
Walk round about an oak, with great ragg'd horns;
And there he blasts the tree, and takes the cattle,
And makes milch-kine yield blood, and shakes a chain
In a most hideous and dreadful manner.
You have heard of such a spirit, and well you know
The superstitious idle-headed eld
Receiv'd, and did deliver to our age,
This tale of Herne the Hunter for a truth.
— William Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor

Robin and Herne the Hunter
Herne was incorporated into the Robin Hood legend in the 1984 television series, Robin of Sherwood. In it, Robin of Loxley is called by Herne to take on the mantle of "the Hooded Man", which Robin's father had predicted beforehand. It is Herne who encourages Loxley to become 'Robin i' the Hood' and to use his band of outlaws to fight for good against the evil Norman oppressors. Herne's appearance bears a very strong resemblance to the illustrations that previously depicted him, in that an otherwise unnamed shaman character, portrayed by actor John Abineri, dons a stag's head and tells Robin that "when the horned one possesses [him]", he becomes the spirit of the forest. Herne featured in 17 of the 26 episodes of the series and was shown to have various magical abilities. The series' adaptation of the Robin Hood mythos has become extremely influential and many of its brand-new elements have since been reinterpreted in a manner of different ways in nearly all of the subsequent films and television series of the legend".

Now, Herne the Hunter became "Herne the Hatstand" (because of his antlers) when hubby was just a lad and would discuss the previous night's episode of Robin of Sherwood at school the following day.  His reference to "Herne the Hatstand" always got a laugh from the assembled throng - so "Herne the Hatstand" he stayed.

Additionally, the Dorset Smokery's address is Hurn Court Lane - so it just had to be!  Inevitably, when trying to think of a name for this dish involving venison, the name "Herne the hatstand casserole" should be first off the blocks - and stick.

So there you are.  Now you know - and aren't you glad?  *chuckle*

We were lucky to arrive at the Smokery just minutes after Marcus had finished making the latest batch to sell - so they couldn't have got any fresher.  Everyone at the Smokery is so nice, you really must go and investigate their wares when you're in the area.  You won't be disappointed!

The sausages were just magnificent in this casserole.  I have to admit that I wasn't too keen on the flavour of the sausage unadulterated and in its pure sausage form - I think it was a bit too strong for me.  However, as a component part of the casserole, they were just majestically beautiful.  The flavours are strong and powerful, but having been cooked in the gravy with the vegetables and mushrooms, the flavours mellowed out and were just gorgeous.

Couple that with the buttery mashed potato and sweet peas and broad beans - and you've a thoroughly well balanced delight of savoury loveliness.

I am quite sure that any good venison sausage would do the same job - and most probably, so would a good beef sausage, although that would slightly change the flavour of the casserole.  However, all the other ingredients go well with beef, so I don't see why not!

I reckon Herne the Hatstand would have approved.


Ingredients :

600g venison sausage
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large carrots, roughly chopped
1 large potato, cubed
1 stick celery, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
2 or 3 bay leaves
150g chestnut mushrooms sliced thickly
1 rounded tsp wholegrain mustard
100ml red wine
750ml veal or ham stock
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Optional :

1 tbsp mushroom ketchup
10g dried porcini mushrooms.

Method :

1.  Make up 750ml of stock and add the dried porcini mushrooms to it.  Set them aside.

2.  Cook the sausages in a large frying pan until the skins are well coloured.  You may need to cook them in two batches.  Once well coloured, remove from the frying pan and set aside to keep warm.

3.  Add the onions, garlic and celery to the pan and cook on a medium heat until softened.

4.  Now turn the heat up to high to get the frying pan quite hot before adding the red wine. Stir vigorously to deglaze the frying pan before emptying the contents into a large saucepan.

5.  Add the thyme, bay leaves and mushrooms to the contents of the saucepan.  Mix well before adding the remaining vegetables and the stock (complete with the mushrooms, if you're using them.  You will want to leave the dregs of the stock in the container, so as not to include any grit that may have come from the mushrooms).

6.  Slice the sausages to your own taste and add them to the pan.  Finally, add the mustard and Worcestershire sauce, stir well and then set the heat to provide a gentle simmer to the pan.  Cook uncovered for at least 45 minutes or until the vegetables have softened.

7.  Prior to serving, if the sauce is a little thin, simply add a teaspoon or two of cornflour or arrowroot which has been slaked with cold water and stir like crazy until the sauce has thickened.

Serve with mashed potato and a selection of green vegetables.

Printable version


  1. Right I need to start going to pub quizes just incase they ask - lol. Your casserole looks rather nice could just eat that xx Have a great christmas xx

    1. See? Told you you'd be glad to know all that. LOL Have a great Christmas too - and thanks for being a great commenter! :)

  2. I came across this recipe when looking for something completely different, and just had to leave a comment when I saw your husband's nickname for the Hunter. He must have started a trend, because at a Robin of Sherwood convention in 2003, Robert Addie (Gisburne in the show) donned a set of antlers and announced himself Herne the Hat Rack. :) (I loved the show too, but didn't see it until many years after it aired.)

    1. How brilliant! Hubby was referring to the Hunter as Herne the Hatstand waaay way back in the 1980's so maybe he did set the precedent! LOL

      Did you find something "completely different", by the way? :)


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