The November issue of Cosmopolitan has just arrived in the office and our Melbury Tweed jacket, Edina Tweed waistcoat, and the Wilton shirt all feature in the Boys’ Club fashion story! This Autumn city styles are given a country update with velvet accents, quirky contrast print linings and mismatched buttons. You can take the girl out of the country but not the country out of the girl…
With a tattered orange cloak of leaves lying on the grass and the must of mushrooms hanging in the damp air, the Autumn larder doors are open and the wonderful array of British game should be tried by all.
We have a long tradition of eating game in this country but sadly, with the tide of cheap farmed meats our wild delicacies became ignored. Encouragingly however, sales of this healthy and delicious food source are on the rise again. There are the rich dark meats, like woodcock and hare, the delicate white meats of rabbit, snipe or partridge, and tender pigeon breast or Roe haunch that have been likened to steak. There is no doubt that when biting into these intriguing and heavenly meats that one can taste the woods, waters and fields of our Isles. When I’m holed up in the countryside I like to cook as simply as possible, one of my favourite ways to enjoy British game is in a Venison Pie. I use the shoulder or leg for this recipe as the saddle is too lean and should be kept for cooking rare.
Venison Pie (Serves 4-6)
1kg shoulder or leg of red deer venison
2 large onions, peeled and finely diced
1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
1 teaspoon English mustard powder
4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
500ml dark ale
1 tablespoon soft brown sugar
3 tablespoons malt vinegar
A heavy grating of nutmeg
1 big sprig of fresh thyme
Large-flaked sea salt and a good blast of black pepper
2 ginger biscuits
1 portion rough puff pastry
1 medium egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
Plain flour, for dusting
Have the butcher cut the venison into proper over-sized mouthfuls that might need cutting once on your plate, as these cook better than small chunks.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4. Heat the dripping in a large, lidded flameproof casserole dish on the hob and add the onions, frying them until they are soft and browned.
Turn off the heat and sift the flour and mustard powder into the pot. Stir until you have a thickish onion mix. Add the meat and carrots and stir into the onions. (You are not pre-browning the meat, as with venison this makes it clench like a fist.) Add the ale, sugar, vinegar, nutmeg, thyme and pepper, and both ginger biscuits, finely grated. Stir once more.
Do not add any salt; you’ll do this at the end. Cover the contents of the pot with a circle of neatly cut greaseproof and put the lid on, then cook it in the preheated oven for 1 ∏ hours. When the time is up, add a tablespoon of salt, if you like you could always leave the lid off for a good stew.
Transfer the contents of the casserole to a pie dish. Use a deep dish, as a wide shallow one will have the pie crust drooping in the middle, thus becoming soggy. Turn the temperature of the oven up to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas 6.
Roll your pastry out to a thickness of about 7mm and lay it over your unctuous deer filling. Leave a slight overhang and crimp the edges with a fork. Paint the top of your pie evenly with the beaten egg and milk. This is the time to fashion any pastry motif appropriate to the occasion and place it on top. Prick a hole in the middle of the pastry, no larger than a wren’s eye.
Cook for 40-45 minutes, until the pastry is a rich hazelnut brown. If in doubt, cook a little longer, as pale, soggy pastry is not as pleasing. Dive in.