VENISON AND WILD MUSHROOM PIES
These individual pies are easy to prepare in advance, you just pop them into the oven while you eat your starter. If you don’t want to make pies, serve as a stew without the pastry, but with plenty of mash. Dried wild mushrooms are available in most supermarkets, but in season – pick your own!
1 kilo (2.2 lbs) diced venison
50 g wild mushrooms (a mixture of porcini and trompettes de mort)
6 tablespoons olive oil or dripping
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
125 g (4 oz) cubed pancetta, or streaky bacon
8 juniper berries, crushed
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons plain white flour
300 ml (1/2 pint) red wine
2 tablespoons rowan or redcurrant jelly
salt and freshly ground black pepper
600 g ready-rolled puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
Place the mushrooms in a bowl and just cover with hot water, leave to soak for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat half the oil in a large casserole, add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery and cook for 5-10 minutes until softening. Stir in the pancetta and fry with the vegetables until just beginning to brown. Add the juniper, bay leaves and thyme, sprinkle in the flour, mix well, and set aside. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the venison quickly (in batches) on all sides until crusty and brown. Tip into the casserole as you go. When done, deglaze the frying pan with the wine, bubble up and scrape up the sediment on the bottom of the pan. Pour over the meat and vegetables. Drain the mushrooms and add to the casserole with 150 ml (1/4 pint) of the soaking water and the rowan jelly. Season really well, and give the whole a good stir. Bring to the boil on top of the stove then simmer for 11/2 hours until tender. Leave overnight to cool.
Next day, spoon the stew into six individual pie dishes. Cut out six circles of pastry, a good inch wider than the dishes. Brush the edges of the dishes with beaten egg. Sit the pastry on top of the rim and press the pastry over the edge to seal tightly. Brush with more beaten egg, then make a couple of slits in the top. Set the pies on a couple of baking sheets and chill for 30 minutes or until ready to serve. Bake at 220C (425F) Gas Mark 7 for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is risen, crisp and golden brown. Serve hot.