This rich stew from a Native American chef connects us to the land

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Hunter’s Stew

Active time:40 minutes

Total time:2h40

Servings:4 to 6

Active time:40 minutes

Total time:2h40

Servings:4 to 6


“Why isn’t the original native diet all the rage today?” Sean Sherman, the Oglala Lakota chef asks in the introduction to his book, “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen,” written with Beth Dooley. “It’s hyperlocal, ultraseasonal, hyperhealthy… Above all, it’s absolutely delicious.” It’s the Native American way of eating that flourished for generations before Europeans arrived, and it’s guided by respect for food and connection to nature and community.

This rich and flavorful stew brings out that point. Like all of the recipes in the book, it’s made with ingredients native to North America, which — yes, can be purchased at well-stocked grocery stores — but can also be found on the way out. Traditionally prepared with naturally lean and exceptionally eco-friendly game meat and a savory blend of fresh dried mushrooms and onions, the stew is earthy and sumptuous, with a deep flavor and hints of brightness made from sumac, juniper and oregano plants. Fork tender meat, mushrooms and gravy served over bright orange squash mash makes for a beautiful and filling meal.

You can use any game meat stew you have access to (if you’re not a hunter yourself, it’s worth befriending – or marrying – one, as I did it). But if you’re relying on groceries, your best options are likely to be bison, venison, or farm-raised lamb. And although you can look for mushrooms, onions, sumac and juniper berries, please only do so with an experienced guide. (Most botanic gardens have foraging classes.)

When I made the dish, I bought all the ingredients at the store, but it still opened my eyes to the wealth of nourishing foods this land has to offer. Such awareness is integral to this way of eating, says Dana Thompson, senior director of health and wellness at NATIFS (North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems). “It’s about understanding the world around us, understanding the trees and plants, and that no matter the season, we can walk outside and pick healthy food.”

This stew is a delicious way to start fostering that connection.

Storage: Refrigerate up to 4 days.

Or buy: Juniper berries and sumac can be found in well-stocked supermarkets, spice stores and online.

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  • 1 ounce dried mushrooms, such as chanterelles, trumpet, morels, or any type of your choice
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons sunflower oil, or another neutral oil
  • 2 1/2 pounds bison, lamb, or any game meat such as venison stew meat, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon ground juniper berries (can substitute 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper)
  • 3/4 tsp fine salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped leek, or diced yellow onion or shallot
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano, plus extra leaves for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons ground sumac, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup low sodium vegetable broth
  • Mashed cooked winter squash, for serving (optional)

In a small bowl, cover the dried mushrooms with boiling water and let soak until softened, about 20 minutes. Drain and reserve the soaking liquid; chop the mushrooms.

In a large heavy saucepan with a lid over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Dry the meat and season with juniper and salt. Working in two to three batches to avoid overcrowding, add the meat to the pan and cook until browned on all sides, 5 to 15 minutes per batch, depending on the type of meat. Transfer to a large plate and repeat with the remaining meat.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions, fresh mushrooms, oregano and sumac and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and the mushrooms release some of their liquid, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped reconstituted mushrooms and their soaking liquid, then the broth, stirring to dislodge any brown bits that stick to the bottom of the pan.

Return the meat to the pan, along with any accumulated juices, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat so stew is simmering on low, partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is fork tender, about 2 hours. Taste and season with more salt and/or sumac if desired. Serve with mashed squash, if using, garnished with oregano leaves.

Per serving (1 cup), based on 6

Calories: 325; Total fat: 12 g; Saturated fat: 3g; Cholesterol: 161mg; Sodium: 416mg; Carbohydrates: 7g; Dietary fibre: 1 g; Sugar: 2g; Protein: 46g

This analysis is an estimate based on the available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.

Adapted by cookbook author and registered dietitian nutritionist Ellie Kriger from “Indigenous cuisine from the Sioux chef” by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooely (University of Minnesota Press, 2017).

Tested by Hattie Ulan; questions by e-mail to [email protected].

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