Venison pie

ingredients

  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 3 tbsp goose fat or butter
  • about 1 1/2 lb stewing venison without bone, in smallish pieces
  • 1/2 - 2/3 bottle full-bodied white wine
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • about 5 cloves
  • about 10 peppercorns
  • 1 piece mace

Another faux-medieval dish, rich with spices, assembled from several fifteenth- to eighteenth-century recipes. The filling is not a ragout, like that of the venison cobbler, but layers of tender stewed meat, apple and figs.

If you can't get goose fat (ours comes from the poulterer, packed in glass jars in France) consider clarifying your butter before you fry venison in it, or using ghee from the Indian shop.

Stew

Heat the goose fat or butter in a large thick-bottomed pan and fry the onion in it until it starts to colour. Add the meat and sauté it until it doesn't look raw any more. Add wine, vinegar and spices, heat to a simmer and let it take care of itself for a few hours, stirring occasionally and adding more wine and/or stock as necessary. When the meat is tender, keep the lid off the pan to let the liquid reduce to just enough that it doesn't stick. When it's almost dry, turn off the heat and remove any spices you can see.

ingredients

  • 3/4 lb 85% or unbleached flour
  • 4 oz rendered suet
  • salt, sugar
  • cold water

Pie crust

Sift the flour with a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar. Grate the fat into the flour with a coarse grater and rub it in until all the lumps have disappeared. Add just enough water to make the dough manageable. Let it rest under a cloth at room temperature.

ingredients

  • 1-2 firm tart cooking apples
  • 6 oz dried figs (probably about 8)
  • 1 glass wine (from the same bottle as before)
  • handful of brown almonds

Fruit

Peel the apples and cut them into large chunks. Blanch the almonds: put them in a small saucepan with water to cover, bring to the boil, let them cool until you can handle them without burning your fingers, and rub off the skins.

Put the figs in a saucepan with wine to cover, bring them to the boil and let them simmer for about a quarter of an hour. Lift them out with a slotted spoon, leave the liquid in the pan.

ingredients

  • pie crust dough
  • dry breadcrumbs
  • stewed venison
  • spices: 2 tsp ground cinnamon, 2 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp ground mace, generous pinch saffron
  • 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp brown sugar, 1 tsp rose water
  • prepared fruit
  • 1 egg, beaten

Making the pie

Line a spring mould or a tin with straight sides with 3/4 of the dough. Sprinkle the inside bottom with breadcrumbs.

Boil the wine the figs have been steeped in to reduce it to about 2 tbsp. Soak the saffron in it. Mix all the other spices, salt and sugar, then add the saffron in its syrup and the rose water. Knead this mixture through the meat, as well as the almonds.

Spread 1/3 of the meat in the mould, then the apples, 1/3 of the meat, the figs, and finally the rest of the meat. Roll out the remaining dough to cover the pie with. Make decorations from the trimmings if you like.

Cut a few slits in the top of the pie. Bake it in a fairly hot oven (180-200°C) until it's firm but still pale, about 25 minutes. Unmould it, brush with egg on all exposed surfaces, and bake it another 15 minutes until golden brown. If you don't dare unmould the pie, brush just the top with egg.