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The slow cooker chef: Hot spring game pie

Photo: Game pie

Photo: Game pie

It’s the time of year when we start to clear the freezer of game given to us during the shooting season. We tend to keep our eyes peeled for cut price game.  Waitrose stocks rabbit, venison, pigeon, partridge and quail. All quite expensive but often marked down to half the original price –these are brought home and secreted in the freezer until we have the perfect ingredients for this subtle game pie filling.

Our favourite combination is venison, rabbit and pheasant. This pads out the pheasant and gives a tremendous range and depth of flavour. Our pies are game heavy, with a little carrot and mushrooms. Our prize for cutting down on meat during the week. But they don’t taste very ‘gamey’. At the end of the season we and most people that we know are suffering from Phesantitsis.- a surfeit of pheasant over the winter months.

We developed this game dish to be easy on the palate. A subtle echo of the winter’s bounty. A game pie that would beckon most people back from the brink.

We often make pies with a béchamel ‘gravy’ and quite few vegetables – mild, tasty food. This week I wanted to create something a bit more raunchy. Thickened with pureed dark gilled mushrooms. A dish that would have a spring, chilly evening appeal.

The oatmeal was an echo of Sid’s (Chef at Large) meat and oatmeal stew (highly recommended) and just a handful of oatmeal took away the bitterness that often comes with game and rounded the dish perfectly. The pot barley also added to this softness.

Ideally one of the meat ingredients in this pie filling needs to have bones. For us it’s always the pheasant as I hang, gut and skin and toss most into the freezer. The bones improve the stock immensely. The addition of a good redcurrant jelly or giant slug of sloe gin is essential. Like most slow cooked dishes, this pie filling benefits from a day in the fridge to allow the flavours to develop even more. A perfect cook now eat later dish.

I love meat pies with shortcrust pastry Danny longs for the lightest puff pastry to soak up the gravy. The former is whizzed in the food processor for pennies and the latter is bought. I’ve discovered that Jus-Rol now make an all butter pastry to die for (including the price £1.49). But well worth every penny for topping the slow cooked game pie filling. One pack will provide enough pastry for half the filling. This recipe makes enough filling for about 10-12 portions. We freeze it in batches and hoik out a slab when we need a gentle yet chic game fix. Perfect supper party food for people who are uncertain about game – as seductive as the sudden glimmer of sunshine on water. The game notes are just that, an echo of an almost forgotten aria rather than the complete opera with the spotlight in the bumptious, plump pheasant Diva and beautiful but raucous mate.

The slow cooker chef: Hot spring game pie (10-12 portions)

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium pheasant
  • 340g of venison
  • 600g of rabbit
  • 150g of onions (peeled and chopped)
  • 400g of carrots (peeled and chopped into 1cm x 2cm lengths)
  • 200g of dark gilled mushrooms (finely sliced including stalks – added at the end)
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of medium oat bran
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of seasoned plain white flour
  • 1 tsp of Balsamic vinegar
  • Quarter tsp of dry English mustard powder
  • 2 tsp of garlic granules or two chunky cloves of garlic skinned and finely chopped
  • Half a tsp of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of Pot Barley
  • Half a tsp of dried tarragon (or a quarter tsp of fresh)
  • 1 heaped tsp of fresh chopped thyme leaves
  • 2 Allspice berries
  • 6 juniper berries
  • 1 pint of good stock (we used goose stock but it could be a rich duck, chicken or game stock. Even 2 chicken stock cubes at a pinch)
  • 1 pint of vegetable stock (it could be water plus 2 tsp of a deceb=nt vegetable stock powder)
  • 2 tsp of Anchovy Sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of Mushroom ketchup
  • 1 large handful of fresh parsley (chopped fine)
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice (or salt) at the end of cooking.
  • 2 tablespoons of sloe gin or homemade Sloe and Bramley jelly or red currant jelly (bitter sweet is what you need here)

Ingredients topping:

Pastry – either buy your pastry (1 pack of Jus-Roll will give you enough for a pie for six people or make your own shortcrust (a great food processor method is here and you need to double it).

Method:

The mushrooms, lemon juice, parsley, sloe gin or jelly and ground black pepper are added at the end.

  1. Chop up the rabbit and venison into large bite sized pieces. Remember that it will shrink during cooking. Leave the pheasant as a complete carcass. Roll the pheasant and the rest of the meat in the mixture of oat bran and seasoned plain flour. Put the meat into the cold slow cooker.
  2. Add the chopped onions, garlic and carrots. Cover these with the remaining flour and mix them with the meat.
  3. Add the two types of stock (fowl and vegetable), balsamic vinegar, thyme, dried tarragon (if you use fresh you need half the amount). Allspice and juniper berries, mustard powder, pot barley, anchovy sauce, mushroom ketchup.
  4. Stir the ingredients well and set the dial to auto on the slow cooker. Let the dish bubble away very gently for four to five hours. Check the meat and carrots after 3 hours and then hourly until they are both tender. The temperature of slow cookers can vary immensely.
  5. When the filling is cooked remove some of the gravy using a ladle – just enough to cover the sliced mushrooms. Simmer until the mushrooms are soft (10 mins). Then liquidise the mushrooms and gravy and add to the slow cooker pot. Add the freshly ground black pepper, lemon juice and parsley. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Allow to cool and chill for twenty four hours before adding the pastry topping.
  6. As our cooker is on the hot side. We have discovered that it is best to bake the pie at 180c (160c fan) for twenty minutes and then 200c (180c fan) for a further 10-15 minutes. So the pastry top cooks all the way through.
  7. Serve with green beans, carrots and a sprinkle of new potatoes.

  Leave a reply

11 Comments

  1. This all looks so tasty. The bit that really interested me was the pureed dark gilled mushrooms to use as a thickener. I just would never have thought of using them in that way – can’t wait to get some to try this out. x

  2. michelle in NZ

    The aroma wafting through the cottage must be wonderful. Isn’t it satisfying to know you’ve scrumptious food just waiting for you in the freezer. The mushroom idea is great. king thank yous for sharing this gem

  3. I’m a huge pie lover and this one sounds amazing.

  4. Rebecca

    Mmmmm – sounds delicious. We’re great fans of gameso I imagine I will be giving this a try very soon!

  5. My sister bought dried mushrooms on the advice of a friend who she took to Costco for the first time recently. The friend saw the large jar and announced she just had to have them. My sister was curious as she had seen them but never bought them before, what could they be used for? Everything the friend said including crumbled into sauces to thicken them and add general depth of flavour rather than overwhelming mushroom. My sister and my mother are totally converted.

  6. I can only eat game every once in a while but this sounds delicious. Softened gamey flavours I could eat often.

  7. Toffeeapple

    Now that sounds wonderful, I haven’t eaten game for some time.

  8. springtime

    This sounds wonderful! I can feel my mouth beginning to water just reading about it.

    We don’t tend to eat much game, most because my partner isn’t a big fan, but I might try and sneak something like this past him…

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Wendy

    The mushroom puree works really well. Usually I add a half handful of dried mushroom but I’d run out and decided to experiment. We often find marked down mushrooms at Tesco and a pack of these stepped into the breech.

    Hello michelle in NZ

    I do quite a lot of cooking in bulk as it saves masses of time and energy in the long run and it means that we have a wide range of dishes to choose from each day.

    Our slow cooker has been a real boon. It’s very cheap to run and the slow cooking seems to enhance all the flavours. If I fill ours up it makes about eight to ten portions of whatever I’m making.

    Hi Sylvie

    I’m pie mad too! Especially since I discovered how to make pastry in the food processor in literally seconds.

    Hello Rebecca

    Just wanted to say how impressed I am with your wool! Well worth a visit to R’s blog to see her naturally dyed wool amongst lots of other good reads.

    This pie was tasty and subtle. The secret ingredient is the oatmeal.

    Hello Pamela

    Thanks for this tip. We use dried mushrooms a lot especially a small handful in steak and kidney pie. You are so right they add deep soul to a dish.

    Hi Amanda

    As we live deep in the heart of shooting country we are given a lot of game by generous friend and clients. I’m so pleased that I played with this dish a bit as we can be quite gamed out by the end of the season and can’t face the game packed into the freezer.

    Hi Toffeeapple

    It was delicious. And not too gamey.

    Hello Springtime

    By this stage in the year I reckon that we are like your partner, game just doesn’t appeal as we have guzzled too much during the winter.

    This was delicious and light and I could eat this anytime.

  10. Rosie Peters

    I am sitting here at 9pm in 35 degree celcius heat (very hot, don’t know what that is in northern hemisphere weather terms. It’s late summer in Australia) and I am totally watering at the mouth over your game pie. Venison and rabbit, yes, we’ve got it, but pheasant I’ve never tasted. But it all sounds so good.

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