On rooting through the freezer, I found a pack of mixed game – pigeon breasts, venison and rabbit – right at the back.
Now, I must make it clear that, whilst the fact that I’ve got game meat in my freezer sounds quite grand, I’m not some sort of country gentleman who shot this meat on his own estate. I’m a resolutely urban dweller, who just happens to have been given a pack of meat about a year ago, froze it whilst trying to decide what to do with it and promptly forgot about it until the kids demanded fish fingers for tea, causing me to stumble across it again.
Anyway, I let the meat defrost so that I’d be forced to come up with something to cook.
I eventually decided on a game pie, a more countrified take on the classic pork pie.
The method is exactly the same – hot water pastry, big chunks of meat bound together in a rough pate with minced pork, a heavy hand with the herbs and seasoning, topped up with jellied pork stock.
Start by making a hot water pastry. This really is a very simple method – there’s no finesse about it at all. It’s just a lot of fat and flour. Brilliant.
Add 100g each of butter and lard to a pan containing 200ml of water and gently heat until the fats are melted. In a large bowl, mix 550g of plain flour and a teaspoon and a half of salt together, then cut a couple of eggs into the flour with a knife.
When the eggs are half mixed in, add the water and fat and stir it all together into a hot dough. Knead the dough until it’s smooth, pop it into a plastic bag and let it rest in the fridge for at least an hour.
In the meantime, make the filling.
I had a 500g pack of mixed game meat - pieces of venison, rabbit and pigeon chopped up into chunks about two centimetres in size. The meat was dark and juicy and had a superb gamey feel to it. To this meat, I added about another 500g of minced belly pork, although I did cut off a few biggish chunks of lean pork before I minced the belly, just to keep the mix interesting.
Some streaky bacon wouldn’t go amiss, if you’ve got it.
Mix the meats together very thoroughly and season well with salt and white pepper. Add plenty of finely chopped sage, at least a dozen big leaves, and the leaves from a few sprigs of thyme.
Line a 20cm cake tin with the rested dough – just roll out the pastry, retaining some for a lid, lift it into the tin and push it up the sides with your hands. It’s meant to be a rough and ready affair.
Fill the pastry crust with the meat, plunge a bay leaf into the middle and put the lid on the top, crimping it onto the base with your fingers. Make sure that the pie is sealed well.
Cut a small hole in the very centre of the lid, brush with a little beaten egg, then cook for thirty minutes at 180c and then a further hour and a quarter at 160c.
When the pie is cooked, put it to one side to cool for a while, and then use a funnel or turkey baster to fill it with pork stock through the hole you cut earlier. Be certain that the stock you use will set as a jelly.
I must admit to cheating this time – my stock came from a cube, and had some gelatine added – but I’m a busy person and I don’t like the idea of pig’s trotters much.
Leave the pie to cool completely overnight in the fridge and then slice into enormous wedges and eat whilst rambling around your country estate.
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