Wild venison pot pie
- 500g diced wild Scottish venison
- 1 tbsp beef dripping or oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 onions, chopped
- 300ml rich beef stock
- 2 tbsp bramble jelly
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- flaked sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 375g ready rolled puff pastry
- 1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp water
A rich stew of venison meat, simmered with savoury beef stock and the sweetness of bramble jelly, forms the base of these individual pot pies. Shop bought puff pastry is far easier and even far better than most of us will ever make at home and even chefs consider it a perfectly standard ingredient. The standard puff pastry is probably better than the premium one made with butter as the latter can be a little greasy whilst the one we have all used for years remains comfortingly bulletproof. There is no need to thicken a stew with flour, a spoonful of tomato puree are all you need for a well reduced gravy.
1. Melt the beef dripping in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the onions with a pinch of salt.
2. Cook, stirring, for several minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent.
3. Add the meat, with the garlic and cook for several minutes more until the meat is slightly browned.
4. Stir in the tomato puree, then the bramble jelly, then add the beef stock with the bay leaf and the balsamic vinegar. We use the inexpensive type of balsamic that is still sharp, not the sweet musky stuff. If you only have the sweet stuff, then any other type of vinegar will do. It is the sharpness that you want not more sweet.
5. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down low so that it simmers gently. You want it to bubble noticeably; not too rapidly but not too slowly or it will take too long. Venison meat is lean so it does not take so long to break down but can become dry quickly.
6. After about an hour, the stew should be reduced enough, and the meat tender enough, to bring it off the heat. You have eaten pie before and you know how you want it to be so trust your own judgement.
7. Pre heat the oven to 200C/Gas 6.
8. Divide the cooled meat between 2 small dishes, or one big one if that is all you have. It needs to come right to the top.
9. Cut out pastry to fit just over the rim. Wet the rim of the dishes and lay the pastry over the top; push it down at the edge so it sticks. Make a hole in the centre of each pie, so that the steam can escape. Using a small knife, go round the edge of the pie and make light feathering movements against the edge of the pastry, so that it pushes up slightly and forms a slightly thicker edge. This is called knocking up the edges, and theoretically it helps the crust to puff up.
10. Lightly brush beaten egg over the pastry top, and put the pies on a baking sheet.
11. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 30 minutes until the pastry is cooked through. Pastry looks brown quite early on, but can go for ages before it is properly cooked. Take it for as long as you can without actually burning it and you will be rewarded with a crisp crust.
12. Serve with creamy mashed potato and something green.