Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Venison & Plum Pie

November is mid-venison season which means it's becoming increasingly easy to find this rich meat - perfect for a cold weather appetite. This dish takes a little time (2 1/2 hours at least), but your efforts are rewarded with melt-in-the-mouth chunks of gamey venison in a deep, sweet plum sauce.

Top tip: This dish can come out very sweet if you don't time the stewing of the plums correctly. For a sweeter pie, leave the plums to stew for longer, and add a teaspoon of redcurrant jelly.

Makes a deep-filled 12 inch pie


Red Onion - 2 small
Leek - 1
Carrot - 1
Chestnut Mushrooms - 100g
Plums - 5
Thyme - 6 sprigs
Garlic - 1 clove
Coriander Seeds - 1 tsp
Butter - 50g
Diced Venison - 450g
Plain Flour - 50g
Chicken Stock - 1 litre
Port - 150 mls
Balsamic Vinegar - 2 tbsp
Brown Sugar - 1tsp
Shortcrust Pastry - 1 pack

1. Slice the leek and dice the carrot into small cubes. Slice the mushrooms, and dice one red onion.

2. Roll the diced venison in the plain flour to lightly coat.

3. In a large frying pan, melt half the butter. Add the diced onion and garlic, and sauté until softened.

4. Add the venison and fry on a medium heat until just browned all over.

5. Transfer the contents of the pan to an oven-proof casserole dish. Add the leek, carrot, mushrooms, chicken stock, and port. Crush the coriander seeds using a pestle and mortar, and add these to the casserole dish.

6. Pop the lid on and place in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees C for 1.5 - 2 hours. You'll know it's ready when the venison falls apart in your mouth, and isn't tough.

7. Whilst the casserole is stewing, caramelise your plums. Start by peeling and de-stoning the plums, and then roughly chopping them into quarters. Dice the remaining onion. 

8. Melt the remaining butter in a large frying pan. Add the onion and sauté until softened. Add the thyme and plums, and heat for another minute. Add the brown sugar, and 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar. Stir constantly and heat through until the plums are slightly sticky.

9. Add the mixture to the casserole after the first hour, and return to the oven.

10. Just before the casserole is ready, start to roll out the shortcrust pastry. Butter a pie dish, and line with a layer of thin pastry. Weigh down the pastry with baking beans, and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until not quite cooked. You'll be finishing it off in a bit!

11. Roll out another sheet of pastry, large enough to cover the pie.

12. Remove the pie tin and casserole from the oven, and allow to cool slightly. At this point check the casserole for seasoning and sweetness. Add salt, pepper and additional balsamic vinegar to taste.

13. Remove the lid, stand on the hob and reduce the sauce to thicken it up. (If the flavours are already intense enough just cheat and add a little cornflour).

14. Pour the filling into the partly cooked pastry tin, then cover with the pastry topping. Prick and decorate before placing in the oven for another 20 minutes, or until the topping is golden and crispy. (For a professional sheen, brush with a little milk before baking.)

Serve piping hot with seasonal vegetables, or my Cheddar & Mustard Mash and Caramelised Carrots.

Perfect with a glass of deep red wine!

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