Venison and ale pie from the ethical carnivore, Louise Gray
My dad always says there’s no such thing as a bad cut of meat, just meat that has not been cooked for long enough. Most of the red deer stag I shot was made into mince or stewing steak, since I do not have a massive oven that’ll fit haunches of venison, and because it is a strong-flavoured meat, I wanted to slow cook it. Also, in a stew is my favourite way to eat venison—I just find it such a comforting tasty dish.
Most of my book was fuelled by variations of this stew. You can add whatever vegetables you like, as long as you cook it long and slow in stock or booze. I like this one because it includes juniper, mushrooms and thyme, which grow wild in the Highlands and so complement the dish perfectly. Adding a lid and making it a pie makes it posh enough to serve to friends and you can make a nice antler design on the top to hint at the delicious surprise beneath…
1kg stewing venison, cut into large dice (ask the butcher where it is from, you probably don’t want an old stag but a younger beast)
1 tbsp plain flour
A good slug of rapeseed oil
2 large white onions, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped, or neeps (swede) if you can get it
A handful of mushrooms
7 juniper berries, crushed in a pestle and mortar (juniper does grow in the Scottish Highlands but it is only just returning, so leave the berries to have a chance at growing for now)
A few sprigs of mountain thyme (ordinary thyme will do)
500ml ale (you can get some lovely Scottish ales, try Lia Fail by Inveralmond Brewery, or Guinness will do)
1 pack puff pastry, rolled out
1 egg, for washing
Coat the venison in the flour and brown off in a frying pan. Put to one side for later.
Take a large ovenproof casserole dish and gently fry the onions until translucent. Gradually add the carrots/ neeps and mushrooms, and finally the juniper and thyme and a little salt and pepper. Add back in the venison and give it a quick stir, then pour in a bottle of dark ale. Pop in the oven at 180C to simmer away for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Once you have a rich stew, place in the bottom of a pie dish and then cover in your rolled out pastry, and brush with the egg wash. You can make a nice antler design to personalise the meal. Put the pie in the oven for about 40 mins or until the pastry is golden. Serve with greens such as kale and mashed neeps. Enjoy with another bottle of ale.
Recipe: Louise Gray