There is no better way to embrace the coming of autumn than with a hearty casserole, and why not try a twist on the original with a Venison and Ale Puff Pastry Pie? This recipe is taken from The Claire MacDonald Game Cookbook, which de-mystifies cooking with game and offers a varied selection of recipes incorporating wild duck, venison, partridge, wild salmon, and much more.
Venison and Ale Puff Pastry Pie from The Claire MacDonald Game Cookbook
A pie is inevitably greeted with glee – and venison is such a perfect meat for a pie. The ale can be of your choosing – the Black Isle Brewery makes a delicious range and so too does the Isle of Skye Brewery. But there are so many excellent breweries all around the United Kingdom, so choose one close to where you live. I never think that potatoes are necessary with a pie, but mashed celeriac is a very good accompaniment, along with a steamed green veg, such as purple sprouting broccoli, Savoy cabbage or Brussels sprouts. And a dish of rowan jelly completes the perfection of this main course.
900g / 2lb venison cut into chunks about 2cm / 1″, trimmed of any membrane
1 rounded tbsp flour
1 tsp salt, about 15 grinds black pepper
4–5 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
6 onions, skinned and finely sliced
1 bottle of ale of your choice
300ml / ½ pint stock (I use vegetable stock for this)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 packet all-butter puff pastry, rolled out
1 beaten egg –for brushing the pastry before baking
Put the flour, salt and black pepper into a large polythene bag and add the chunks of venison. Close the bag and shake, to coat each bit of meat with seasoned flour.
Heat the oil in a large casserole and brown the floured meat, a small amount at a time, browning on all sides. As the venison browns, lift it into a bowl, leaving behind as much oil as possible in the casserole.
When all of the meat is browned, add the finely sliced onions to the casserole and fry, over a moderately high heat, for 8–10 minutes until soft and transparent. As you stir them occasionally during their frying time, scrape the bottom of the pan with your wooden spoon.
Replace the browned venison in the casserole with the fried onions and add the ale and stock, stirring continuously. When the liquid reaches simmering point, cover the casserole with its lid and cook in a moderate oven (180°C / 350°F/ gas 4) for 1 hour. Take the casserole out of the oven and cool.
When it is still warm, taste and add more salt and pepper if you think it is required. Spoon the contents of the casserole into an ovenproof dish or pie dish. Put an inverted eggcup in the middle to support the pastry.
Cover the dish and its contents with the rolled-out puff pastry, and press it down firmly at the sides, making a neat imprint with your thumbs around the edges. With a sharp knife, score the surface of the pastry – take care not to cut right through – into a diamond pattern by cutting lines spaced about 2cm / 1” apart in one way diagonally, then across the other way. Brush the entire surface with beaten egg.
Bake from room temperature (not straight from the fridge) in a moderate oven (180°C / 350°F / gas 4) for 45–50 minutes. The pastry should be golden-brown and puffed and the venison mixture will be simmering gently beneath.