Those lovely people at Farmer's Choice (Free Range) Ltd were kind enough to respond to my promise of a good Game Pie recipe and very obligingly supplied the necessary, for which, my thanks. (Follow the link here which will take you to the relevant page of their website). However, none of us quite reckoned on just how good this good Game Pie recipe would be. It was more than good - it was (to quote my hubby) "a triumph".
Now bear in mind that I'm a bit of a novice when it comes to Game.
Undaunted, however, I had a vision of a Game Pie in my imagination and that vision was just busting to be made real. Not a raised Game Pie (a sort of wild meat version of a pork pie) but a good old fashioned country style, hearty, stick to your ribs kind of pie. One with a golden crispy crust that hides the cornucopia of deliciousness below. All I can say is that I just wish I had this kind of vision more often, as the actuality exceeded expectation by a factor of many - and the expectation was pretty darned high to begin with!
|I dare you to identify any one piece ... lol|
It was all coming together nicely.
I remembered my two front-door herbs, rosemary and bay. (So called because they are either side of my front door). Both would be perfect with the wild flavours of the Game and I liked the idea of those straight away. My mind was wandering along pine nut routes when I suddenly remembered Juniper berries. They would provide a gorgeous aromatic quality, along with a subtle citrussy fruitiness that would be hard to pin down but very "there". Oh yes, it was all coming together beautifully.
I added a few more ingredients over the course of the cooking process - the spoonful of tomato puree both for colour and fruitiness, the Knorr stock pot for its invaluably deep, dark colouration and excellent flavour - and I can safely say that each and every ingredient became as important as the next in the production of the pie.
Yes, it is basically a day-long labour of love to make this pie - but oh my gosh it is worthwhile. Taken in stages, the process becomes an easy matter which I grant you is time consuming, but not difficult. If you're looking for a dish with which to impress (and you could easily prepare the pie filling ahead of time and freeze it - which would make things a whole lot easier) you don't need to look much further.
"The nicest pie - both filling and pastry - I've had in many a long year" was my hubby's verdict. I think he liked it.
Perhaps not surprisingly, I have a few Cook's Tips for you.
The most important thing is not to rush this pie. Give yourself a complete day in which to produce it if you're intending on making it all in one day, as it does take time. Cutting the oven time short will only result in a potentially tough or undercooked filling that has none of the deep, developed flavours that a long oven bake will bring.
Don't be tempted to add the pastry to the pie until the filling is, at worst, luke warm or at best, stone cold. Any significant heat will instantly melt your pastry, which will dissolve distressingly before you can get it into the oven.
Lastly, don't be scared to add a good deal of black pepper. It gives a lovely warmth to the sauce that lingers on the tongue like a delicious echo.
You're also in luck that August is currently within Game season - so invest in some mixed Game and tuck it away for a rainy day that can only be salvaged by the application of delicious Game Pie. Your family will thank you.
GAME PIE (Serves 3-4)
1 tbsp olive oil
500g mixed Game, diced (I used venison, rabbit, pheasant, partridge & wood pigeon)
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 large carrot, half finely diced, half sliced small
1 stick celery, finely diced
2 rashers back bacon, diced
10 small round shallots
150g small button mushrooms, left whole
3 bay leaves
1 tsp fresh rosemary
8 juniper berries, crushed well
200ml red wine
1 heaped tsp tomato puree
1 Knorr rich beef stock pot
10 semi dried prunes, halved
For the pastry :
150g plain flour
50g vegetable suet
50g cold salted butter
freshly ground black pepper
Carbonated mineral water as necessary.
1 egg yolk to glaze.
In a deep frying pan, heat the olive oil and add the butter. When the butter is frothy, add the game and sear over a high heat with a tiny pinch of sea salt and a good pinch of black pepper. Just get two or three sides of the meat coloured, then remove to an ovenproof casserole dish, using a slotted spoon.
Add the chopped onion, garlic, carrot (both sizes), celery and bacon to the pan. Season with a small pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Fry over a moderate heat until the onion is transparent and the bacon fat has begun to render.
Add the whole shallots and button mushrooms and increase the heat under the pan. Fry until everything has gained a little colour - around five minutes, or so.
Add the bay leaves, rosemary and crushed juniper berries and stir through.
Add the red wine and tomato puree, stir through and allow to boil rapidly for 2-3 minutes, then reduce the heat to moderate and add the beef stock and the water. Stir through again to ensure the stock has melted properly.
Simmer the pan contents for 10 minutes, then taste for seasoning and add more salt or pepper, as necessary.
Add the prunes and chestnuts.
Decant into the casserole dish and gently stir to mix the game through.
Cover the casserole dish and place into a pre-heated oven at 180degC/350degF/Gas 4 for 2 hours.
Once the cooking time is up, decant the casserole contents into your pie dish, cover lightly and set aside to cool.
Make the pastry by gathering all the ingredients except the water (and egg) into a large bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour and suet, until you have a cross between breadcrumbs and cornflakes. Add around 100ml of water and stir with a knife. You will probably need a little more water, but what you are looking for is that the pastry dough just clings together and is damp, not wet. Do not knead the dough at all, just pat and push it together then place onto a sheet of cling film and wrap tightly. Rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using.
When your dough is rested and your filling lukewarm, roll out the pastry to just bigger than the size of your pie dish.
Using a pastry brush, brush egg yolk around the lip of the pie dish.
Carefully lift the pastry on top of the pie, so that it overhangs the edge. Using the tip of a knife, press down all around the edge then trim off the excess.
Brush all but a small amount of the remaining egg yolk over the surface of the pastry, taking care to go right to the edges.
Cut out some leaves or other decoration from your leftover pastry and lay them on top of the egg wash. Brush egg onto the leaves.
Take a sharp knife and cut some holes into the pastry to allow the steam to escape.
Place into a pre-heated oven at 180degC/350degF/Gas 4 for 35-40 minutes until the pastry is crisply golden and the filling is bubbling hot.
Serve with buttered new potatoes and vegetables of your choice.