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Taste of Europe: Ben Tish’s venison pie

Given we’re still in the depths of winter pie is the keenest way to mark the end of Veganuary, says JOSH BARRIE

Ben Tish's venison pie

Good news everyone: Veganuary is over. It means we can tuck into meat again, which is what we’ll do.

Given we’re still in the depths of winter – fine, it’s disrespectfully warm, but we’ll have to brush over that for now and apologise to the polar bears later –pie is the keenest answer.

This one, from the chef Ben Tish, makes good use of venison, a lean game that remains misguidedly overlooked in Britain. It’s a meat of which we have plenty.

Cooked well, and venison is tender, earthy, but a little pared back, allowing for bold flavours and sweetness to tuck in next to it. Because of its refined attributes, it is also extremely comfortable inside buttery pastry and with aromatic gravy.

Tish, meanwhile, is a busy chef. Having left the Game Bird at The Stafford, as well as his Moorish restaurant Norma (where he was culinary director), he’s arrived at The Coach Makers Arms in Marylebone, which reopened for business this month.

The pub will blend Tish’s Mediterranean background with “traditional pub fare”. It is an intriguing proposition: Pub on the ground floor and a classical British chophouse-style restaurant upstairs.

Naturally, this venison pie sits on the ground floor, and works best with a smooth oval of mashed potato, a jug of gravy, and a pint of Guinness. We’ll journey back for a slice of something Mediterranean in the coming months.

VENISON PIE

Makes four pies using a 9cm pie mould

INGREDIENTS

For the pie filling:

2 tbsp beef dripping or olive oil
100g British free-range unsmoked bacon lardons
150g venison haggis
600g British venison shoulder and neck (50/50) cut into large cubes, seasoned generously
Knob of butter
2 large red onions, thinly sliced
2 large onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
4 bay leaves
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1 star anise
Grated zest ¼ small orange
2 tbsp plain flour
250ml full-bodied red wine
500-600ml beef or chicken stock

For the suet pastry casing:

175g self-raising flour
75g shredded vegetable suet
75ml ice-cold water
Pinch of fine sea salt

For the rough puff pastry top:

150g unsalted butter
160g strong plain flour
75ml ice-cold water
Pinch of fine sea salt

METHOD

To make the suet crust base, put the self-raising flour, suet and a couple of pinches of salt into a bowl and use your fingers to mix together. Once the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, add 150ml of ice cold water to bring it
together until you have a soft dough. Cover with cling film and place in the
fridge.
To make the rough puff top, put the plain flour and salt into a bowl and dice the butter. Rub together to mix but there should still be small lumps of butter. Pour in the cold water and mix to a firm dough, don’t over mix. Cover and place in the fridge.
Put a large heavy-based casserole (one with a lid) over a high heat.
Add half the dripping or oil and, when hot, add the bacon lardons. Fry for 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly, until golden, then use a slotted spoon to lift out onto a plate.
Keep the pan on the heat, then add the cubed venison in a single layer (you might need to do this in batches) and brown until caramelised on all sides.
Avoid shaking the pan and let the meat sizzle for several minutes before turning.
Once it’s browned, lift it out and set it aside with the bacon.
Reduce the heat and add the remaining dripping/oil and the butter, followed by the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, star anise and orange zest.
Season, then cook, stirring regularly, for 10-12 minutes or until the onions begin to soften. Turn down the heat, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for a further 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 170C.
When the onions are very soft and beginning to caramelise, return the venison, bacon and any resting juices to the casserole. Scatter over the flour and stir well. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then pour in the wine, stir well and bring to a simmer.
Add enough stock to just cover the meat and add the haggis. Set the lid on slightly ajar, transfer to the oven and cook for 2½ hours.
After that time, remove the casserole from the oven, lift out a piece of meat and check it’s tender and the sauce is rich (if it’s not, return to the oven for a
further 30 minutes and check again).
When the meat is tender, stir the pie filling gently, then taste, adjust the seasoning and leave it to cool
Turn out the puff pastry onto a floured board and roll out into a square, there should be small streaks of butter running through the pastry, this is needed. Fold the right-hand third halfway into the middle and repeat with the remaining left-hand side, roll out again and repeat the folding process two more times. Cover with clingfilm and return to the fridge for half an hour.
Dust a clean surface with flour and roll out the suet crust dough so it’s about 1cm thick. Line your pie dish, push and pat it in, letting a couple of cm hang over the edge.
Press the now cool pie mixture into the lined pie dishes.
Roll out the rough puff pastry until about 1 cm thick.
Egg wash the suet crust overhang and place the rough puff pastry over the top, pushing the edges together with your fingers.
Trim the edges with a small knife to seal. Egg wash the lid and cook for one hour at 180C.
When ready, carefully pull out the pie from the mould and allow to sit for ten minutes before serving with mashed potatoes and plenty of gravy.

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