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VILTGRYTE — A Vegan Hunter’s Stew

Apr 1, 2020

One of the most popular stews in the fall and winter months in Norway is jegergryte, which can also go by the name of viltgryte or hjortegryte. Respectively, they translate to ‘hunter’s stew’, ‘venison stew’ or ‘deer stew’. Not particularly vegan no, as this dish is tied to the hunting season in Norway during the fall, as well as the foraging season in the mountains for mushrooms and wild berries (I like the latter part better). Vilt is a Norwegian word that translates directly to ‘wild’, so technically speaking you could use this not just to refer to animals, but vegetables and fungi as well. Think wild mushrooms, wild berries, and so on.

I wanted to tackle the most unlikely of dishes to be veganized, and hence today’s blog post!

The autumn season in Norway offers fantastic produce from nature, and picking wild berries and mushrooms is a longstanding tradition in our country. You will see this reflected on the menus of fine dining restaurants there, where it’s now ‘in’ to focus on local and seasonal ingredients. I don’t think there’s anywhere in the world where chanterelles taste better. These mushrooms are sought after by chefs and foodies all around the world, due to their delicate, yet mildly peppery flavor.

Chanterelles are found everywhere in Norway and have a long growing season. Their bright yellow color and uneven ‘top hat’ make them easy to identify. Look for them in shaded areas of the forest, typically close to where moss grows—and you’ll be on the right path!

Juniper berries have a big role in Norwegian cooking and are another important ingredient for adding the authentic flavor in this dish. These berries, which technically are pine cones but need to be cooked for 14 hours before being edible, then dried for 3 days, offer loads of antioxidants and other health benefits. In the old days, they were used as medicine for stomach aches, toothaches and against dirty blood. Juniper berries were also thought to protect against the devil and otherworldly people, as well as shield herding sheep from foxes.

Besides being used as a flavoring agent in gin, juniper berries are used in stews, sauerkraut, sauces, and marinades as well as a spice when making beer.

Viltgryte is probably the closest thing to kosemat you can get to in Norway. “Kos” is our version of the Danish term “hygge”, which means to be cozy and enjoy your time either with friends, family or on your own. That may be sitting in front of the fire with a cup of hot chocolate and cinnamon buns, or even just a glass of wine, reading a book dressed in comfy clothes, playing cards or some other board game with family members, or watching a movie together while making something good to eat.

Viltgryte is typically a rich stew made with venison and the base sauce is made from a combination of onion, garlic sautéed in butter with crushed juniper berries, fresh herbs, cream, sour cream or crème fraîche and a little tyttebærsaus (lingonberry sauce) or rognebærsaus (rowanberry sauce, tricky to find here in the U.S.), and perhaps a bit of madeira or red wine.

Mushrooms are an important ingredient as well, as well as some type of root vegetable like carrots, parsnips and/or celery root. It is served over rice or with boiled potatoes and topped with a dollop of sour cream and extra lingonberry sauce.

I simply didn’t find it necessary to add any other substitute for the meat other than include extra mushrooms. Mushrooms are wonderful substitutions for meat in many dishes, as it has the earthiness, chewiness and umami flavor similar to animal meat. Not to mention it’s much healthier for you.

If you can find some gourmet mushrooms in the form of either trumpets, king oyster mushrooms, chanterelles or shiitakes in addition to perhaps a few portobellos and regular button mushrooms, you’ll get different flavors and textures that will blend in really well with the authentic flavor profile of this dish.

This is by no means a calorie-free dish, which means it’s typically something we make when we want to serve up something extra decadent for ourselves or for when we invite guests over on the weekend. It’s most definitely comfort food in the strongest sense and to me, it tastes of the wild forests of Norway.

I hope you will enjoy!

VEGAN JEGERGRYTE (Vegan Hunter’s Stew)

2 tbsp vegan butter
1 Vidalia (sweet) onion or 3-4 shallots, chopped
1 leek, cleaned, halved and sliced thinly (leave out toughest, greenest part)
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
8 oz button mushrooms, quartered
2 portobello mushrooms, sliced thick
8 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
½ cup (1.25 dl) Madeira or red wine
About 15 juniper berries, crushed
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 small parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 small rutabaga, peeled and chopped
1 large Yukon gold potato
1 quart (1 liter) vegetable or mushroom stock
Salt, pepper to taste
½ cup cashew cream *
½ cup non-dairy milk
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp lingonberry sauce
½ cup non-dairy sour cream (I love the Follow Your Heart brand)
Extra sour cream and lingonberry to serve
Fresh parsley (optional)

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat the butter over medium heat, throw in the onion, leeks, celery, and garlic with a pinch of salt (I like to use kosher or sea salt) and saute for about 5 minutes until mixture starts to turn golden and soft.

Add the mushrooms with a couple of cracks of fresh black pepper and saute for another 3-4 minutes before adding the Dijon mustard. Coat the vegetables, then de-glaze with the Madeira/red wine and cook until the liquid evaporates, 1-2 minutes.

Next, add the juniper berries and fresh herbs as well as the carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, and potato along with the vegetable or mushroom stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Combine the cashew cream (recipe below) with the non-dairy milk and whisk in the flour to make a slurry. Add in this mixture to the stew and simmer low for about 30 minutes until all vegetables are cooked through and flavors are blended. A few minutes before the end of the cooking time, add in the lingonberry sauce and sour cream and combine well and heat through.

Serve hot with extra sour cream, lingonberry sauce and alternatively, some fresh, chopped parsley and serve over rice or with a side of boiled or mashed potatoes.

*Cashew Cream

This is a super simple recipe for whenever a recipe calls for cream—you can use it in both savory and sweet dishes.

1 cup raw, unsalted cashews, soaked in water for 2 hours or overnight
½ cup water
½ tsp maple syrup (optional, but I like the sweet touch)

Combine everything in a high-speed blender and puree until smooth and creamy. Store in an airtight container. Cashew cream will last for about 4-5 days.

VEGAN JEGERGRYTE (Vegan Hunter’s Stew)

One of the most popular stews in the fall and winter months in Norway is jegergryte, which can also go by the name of viltgryte or hjortegryte. Respectively, they translate to ‘hunter’s stew’, ‘venison stew’ or ‘deer stew’. Not particularly vegan...but I veganized it!
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Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp vegan butter
  • 1 Vidalia sweet onion or 3-4 shallots, chopped
  • 1 leek cleaned, halved and sliced thinly (leave out toughest, greenest part)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 oz button mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 portobello mushrooms, sliced thick
  • 8 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup 1.25 dl Madeira or red wine
  • About 15 juniper berries, crushed
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 small parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small rutabaga, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large Yukon gold potato
  • 1 quart 1 liter vegetable or mushroom stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup cashew cream *
  • ½ cup non-dairy milk
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp lingonberry sauce
  • ½ cup non-dairy sour cream I love the Follow Your Heart brand
  • Extra sour cream and lingonberry to serve
  • Fresh parsley optional

*Cashew Cream

  • 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews, soaked in water for 2 hours or overnight
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ tsp maple syrup (optional, but I like the sweet touch)

Instructions

  • In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat the butter over medium heat, throw in the onion, leeks, celery, and garlic with a pinch of salt (I like to use kosher or sea salt) and saute for about 5 minutes until mixture starts to turn golden and soft.
  • Add the mushrooms with a couple of cracks of fresh black pepper and saute for another 3-4 minutes before adding the Dijon mustard. Coat the vegetables, then de-glaze with the Madeira/red wine and cook until the liquid evaporates, 1-2 minutes.
  • Next, add the juniper berries and fresh herbs as well as the carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, and potato along with the vegetable or mushroom stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  • Combine the cashew cream (recipe below) with the non-dairy milk and whisk in the flour to make a slurry. Add in this mixture to the stew and simmer low for about 30 minutes until all vegetables are cooked through and flavors are blended. A few minutes before the end of the cooking time, add in the lingonberry sauce and sour cream and combine well and heat through.
  • Serve hot with extra sour cream, lingonberry sauce and alternatively, some fresh, chopped parsley and serve over rice or with a side of boiled or mashed potatoes.

*Cashew Cream

  • This is a super simple recipe for whenever a recipe calls for cream—you can use it in both savory and sweet dishes.
  • Combine everything in a high-speed blender and puree until smooth and creamy. Store in an airtight container. Cashew cream will last for about 4-5 days.

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