Recipe from the Oldest Cookbook in history (2000 BC): Deer stew with cilantro

Inspiration for this recipe was found in world’s oldest clay tablets ‘cookbook’, going back as far as the second millennium BC. They were written during the First Babylonian dynasty, somewhere in the fertile valley between Tigris and Eufrates in modern-day Iraq. Details on preparation modes or cooking times on the clay tablets are omitted, so as modern-day epicureans we had to rely on our own culinary experience to recreate these dishes! Together with Historian Annelies Van Wittenberghe (Ghent University) we’ve reconstructed this deer stew recipe during our journey through the flavors of the past.

This autumnal venison stew effortlessly combines the robust game flavor with oriental aromas (cumin and cilantro) enjoy this sophisticated sample of Mesopotamian cuisine. It’s no coincidence that deer matches well with coriander, as there are citrus-coriander aromas to be found in deer meat. Adding cumin, we emphasize the citrus flavours in the dish. As we can see in the Foodpairing tool, onion makes the link to leek, they share roasted-malty flavors.

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  • 1,6 kg deer (buttocks)
  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 g crushed cumin
  • 3 g crushed coriander seeds

Cut the meat in pieces. Put it in a bowl and ass the remaining ingredients. Allow for the mixture to marinate for 24 hours.

Retrieve the meat from the marinade. Pat dry. Season with pepper and salt. Remove 250 g of the marinade. Color in hot fat. Déglaceer the pan after every cooking turn with another part of the removed marinade.


  • 30 g butter
  • 1,5 g crushed cumin
  • 2 g crushed coriander seeds
  • 110 g onion, shredded
  • 300 g leak, coarsely shredded
  • 5 g crushed garlic
  • 100 g marinade
  • 1 L game of veal stock
  • 55 breadcrumbs (white bread)

Melt the butter with the cumin and the coriander seeds. Add the leek, onion and garlic. Simmer briefly. Add colored meat, the déglacage, marinade, and breadcrumbs. Boil the mixture. Then put it in a preheated oven of 130°C for 1u30 minutes. Season with petter, salt, and if you wish extra cinnamon powder. Just before serving, add some freshly chopped coriander.

Note: Deer meat is very lean. The original recipe says to add extra fat, but it ruins the homogenous aspect of the sauce. If you don’t want a too dry stew, use use a gelatinous veal stock instead of game stock and make the stew the day before. A second option is to add about 500 g cut and fried smelt (piece of the neck of the pig.)

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