• Gamekeeper's Pie

    I called this recipe keepers pie in honour of all those doughty farmers of wild produce. This is a really splendid use for all the birds and beasts that are perhaps not aesthetically pleasing, ( usually post Labrador ) but that are nonetheless perfectly edible. My favourite combination is wild venison, rabbit, and pigeon, although you may insert whatever you wish, indeed when I was in my youth it consisted of slightly mangled gamebirds!

    When I was very young and just starting to shoot, I used to beat and generally make a nuisance of myself on a local shoot run by two ex military gentlemen. I loved every minute, and used to always take a brace of birds or a rabbit home at the end of the day. One of these gentleman had a long history of owning yellow Labradors of noble lineage, that had astonishingly hard mouths. If a pheasant showed the slightest sign of twitching once shot it would promptly be half devoured. Not so great for the state of the bag, but great for me, since I invariably took these rejects home.

    Upon arrival home I would hang, pluck and gut the birds, then roast them for the family, who would politely not mention the astonishing state of the meal. It was the keeper who suggested what I should do with the birds, then gave me a couple of rabbits and pigeons to add in to the mix.
    I have progressed since those days, but the principle of using leftover game meat for a pie seems to me to be a brilliant use of ingredients, and also tastes out of this world. I think this knocks a shepherds or cottage pie into a cocked hat.

    Prep 20 mins
    Cooking time 1 hr

    As we shall see this needs to be made well in advance.

    500g mixed game meat, finely diced Venison, rabbit, pigeon
    100g pancetta or streaky bacon, diced
    2 medium onions, finely chopped
    3 carrots, finely diced
    1 swede, finely diced
    50g Wild Mushrooms dried ceps or fresh chanterelles
    1 tbsp flour
    1 tbsp ketchup
    1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
    1 pint guinness

    For the topping:
    Some good mashing potatoes (such as king Edwards or maris piper)
    Double cream

    With a little olive oil, brown all the meat over a high heat in a heavy casserole. Remove from the pan and turn down the heat. Next add the onions, carrots, swede and bacon and sweat until the carrots begin to soften, the onion becomes translucent and the fat begins to run from the bacon. Add the flour and the mushrooms and sauté lightly for two or three minutes, stirring constantly and making sure the flour is cooked through
    Add the meat back to the pan with the onions etc, add the Ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and the Guinness bring to the boil, reduce the heat put on the lid and put in a medium oven for 45 minutes at 150 ºc
    Meanwhile peel the potatoes and boil for twenty minutes or so until ready. Drain and let them steam in a warm place.

    Heat the butter, double cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg together, but do not boil.
    Stir into the potatoes and mash well. Season to taste.

    When the meat is ready and the sauce has taken on a really thick unctuous consistency, remove from the oven season to taste and let it cool down, until it has taken on a really solid gelatinous state. This is for two reasons. Firstly to let the flavours really come to together and mature but also to provide a more stable base to spoon on the mash. You should work from the outside towards the middle, using a wooden spoon. This will give a good firm layer of light buttery mash. Pattern the mash with a fork. Once this is done, beat together an egg yolk and a drop of milk, then brush this over the top to glaze. Bake for 30 minutes in a hot oven or cook under the grill until golden. Serve with buttered cabbage and fresh bread, and possibly a pint or two of foaming ale.

    Special thanks to Mike for supplying all these fabulous venison recipes. To find out more about Mike’s restaurant near Newbury, The Pot Kiln, and the fantastic cookery school that he runs just log onto www.potkiln.co.uk
    Mike Robinson – Chef, TV presenter and author.
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