Old-school venison pie with juniper, rosemary and bay
With a golden puff pastry lid
“This is a beautiful pie and the kind of dish that makes me dream of good home cooking. The venison 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. ”
Heat a lug of olive oil in a large ovenproof pan on a low heat. Peel and slice the onions and fry gently for about 10 minutes until nice and sweet. Don’t let them colour too much.
Meanwhile, peel and chop the garlic and carrots, and trim and chop the celery.
Turn the heat up, then add the butter, garlic, carrot and celery. Peel, roughly tear up and add the mushrooms. Mix everything together.
Cut the venison into 2cm cubes, pick and chop the rosemary leaves and bash the juniper berries in a pestle and mortar. Stir in the venison, rosemary, bashed-up juniper berries and bay leaves. Pick in the thyme leaves and add a pinch of sea salt and 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.
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!