On the way home after a trip south sometime last year, we stopped at the House of Bruar for what was, for me, the first time. I'd always avoided it like the plague - the whiff of mingled tweed plus-fours, Barbour oilskins, hereditary chin-loss and incontinence was readily discernible from the A9, and every instinct screamed at me to hit the accelerator till Kingussie hove into view.
I wish I could tell you that I'd been mistaken all those years but, as we pulled into the car park, that smell only grew stronger. What became apparent, however, was that it had been masking something altogether more appetising. It took me all of ninety seconds to home in on the butchery and charcuterie department at the rear of the complex where, save for a happy blunder through the kitchenware section, I spent most of the next hour. A list of the delights on offer would leave me smiling in a puddle and missing the latest episode of 'Ripper Street', so I'll limit myself to saying that that first visit saw me leave with a small packet of the best snack salami I've ever tasted and a pleasingly hefty parcel of venison sausages, which found their way into a casserole dish the same evening. It's fair to say that I've now overcome my Bruaversion and am a relatively frequent visitor.
Serves 2Four venison sausages
A small red onion, roughly chopped
A small white onion or shallot, likewise
Pancetta, a handful, cubed
Two cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Half a bottle of white wine
Half a litre of chicken stock
A big handful of green lentils
Three or four chestnut mushrooms, thickly sliced
A tablespoon of tomato purée
A dash of balsamic vinegar
A few drops of Worcestershire Sauce
Mixed herbs, a teaspoon
A bay leaf
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Brown the sausages in a little oil in a frying pan then set aside. Heat oil in a casserole and fry the pancetta and onions gently for five minutes or so, until softened and beginning to brown. Add the mixed herbs and the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes.
Pour in the wine, throw in the thyme and bay leaf and simmer for three or four minutes to evaporate the alcohol, then stir in the tomato purée and stock and return to the boil. Add the sausages, cover and place in the oven for half an hour.
Meanwhile wash and thoroughly pick over the lentils, and clean and slice the mushrooms.
Turn the oven down to 160C. Add the lentils and mushrooms to the pot, together with the Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar. Stir, check the seasoning, re-cover and return to the oven for about three quarters of an hour.
Serve with creamy mash, inverted snobbery and no tweed.