a few sprigs fresh rosemary , leaves picked and chopped
a few sprigs fresh thyme , leaves picked
a few fresh bay leaves
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5-6 juniper berries , bashed in a pestle and mortar
500 ml ale , preferably Scottish
1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
350 g ready-made all-butter puff pastry
1 large free-range egg , beaten
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This is a beautiful pie and the kind of dish that makes me dream of good home cooking. We’re filling the pie with venison, which will cook to be delicious, tender and sumptuous.
After all these years of cooking, a meal like this still gets my pulse racing. For a bit of a treat, use 500g of pastry and line the bottom of the pie dish - just make sure you cook it at the bottom of the oven so the pastry has a chance to crisp up.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Heat a lug of olive oil in a large ovenproof pan, on a low heat. Add the chopped onions and fry gently for about 10 minutes until nice and sweet. Don’t let it colour too much. Turn the heat up, then add the garlic, butter, carrot and celery, and the mushrooms, roughly torn up. Mix everything together before stirring in the venison, chopped rosemary, thyme and bay leaves, a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of pepper and the bashed-up juniper berries.
Fry everything quickly for 3 or 4 minutes, then pour in the ale. Stir in the flour and add just enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, pop the lid on and place in the oven for about 2½ hours, giving it a stir from time to time.
The perfect pie filling should have tender meat in a rich, dark, thick stew. So if, when you remove it from the oven, it’s still quite liquidy, place the pan on the hob and reduce for 15 minutes or so until it thickens up a bit.
Evenly roll out the pastry on a floured surface until it is the thickness of a pound coin. Tip the stew in the pie dish and place the pastry on top of the pie.
Criss-cross the top of the pastry lightly with a sharp knife. Brush the top with beaten egg.
Pop the pie on the bottom shelf of the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the pastry is well cooked, puffed-up and golden - then tuck in and enjoy!