Sunday, January 27, 2013

Venison pie with cumquat and star anise

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 Photo by Steve Shanahan

This column first published Canberra Times 8 September 2010 and  an updated version in November 2012.

This pie, now a family favourite started life as a simple and unadorned venison pie. Over the years Ive modified the recipe to reflect the seasons and our changing tastes.  This recipe is by far my most popular post and still attracts the highest number of hits. The recipe has been scooped up by a number of foodies in the US and appears on websites as diverse as food history and game shooting. 

Venison is a sturdy meat that can be matched with bold and robust aromatics, and like other game meats has a tendency to toughen and tighten up. To avoid this, I generally slow cook my venison and I prefer to use the cuts from the shoulder or the rump, as when slow cooked it falls apart and melts in the mouth. These cuts deliver a rich and gamey pie topped with a crispy, buttery crust.

The Maggie Beer sour cream shortcrust pastry is the only pastry I would consider for this pie, as anything else would sell it short. The richness of the sour cream and the butter is a perfect match for the bold flavours of the meat. If you are a novice at pastry making this recipe is very forgiving and worth a try.

I find that I need to order the venison meat through my butcher as its not generally readily available. As this pie is worthy of a special occasion, it would be wise to check the availability of venison with your butcher. If you cannot get your hands on some deer meat, you could easily use beef and still have a delicious result. 
Venison pie is an exceptional special occasion meal, with an incredibly rich, complex and balanced set of flavours that can be served with a creamy mash or my new favourite, creamed cauliflower.  Broad beans or green string beans with a hint of butter and nutmeg work beautifully too. The perfect wine match is a rich Pinot Noir. 

If you cannot obtain cumquats, use 1/4 of an orange, including the skin and flesh. Remove before serving.

To make creamed cauliflower, blend cooked, hot cauliflower with 2 tbsp cream or butter, adding salt and nutmeg to taste.


Venison Filling

4 tbsp olive oil
250 g speck, diced
¼ cup plain flour
1.3 kg cubed venison
2 cloves garlic, chopped
10 golden shallots, diced
6 large mushrooms, sliced
375 ml red wine (pinot is good)
300 ml beef or veal stock
2 tbsp tomato paste
5 whole cumquats, halved and deseeded
½ tsp ground cloves
4 star anise
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 level tsp juniper berries
extra stock if needed
2 sprigs of rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

Ensure the venison is trimmed of sinew and diced into small pieces. Roll the venison in plain flour, shaking off excess and setting aside. Bruise the juniper berries, cinnamon and cloves in a mortar and pestle. 

Heat the oil on medium heat in a large saucepan then add the shallots and garlic, frying until transparent. Add the juniper, cinnamon and cloves and mix well. Then add the diced venison and speck cooking until browned for about eight minutes. Add the stock, wine, cumquats, star anise, rosemary and mushrooms and cook on medium to high heat until bubbling. 

Reduce heat to low, place the lid on the pan and cook for approximately two to three hours, stirring occasionally until meat is tender and sauce is thick and dark. Add seasoning to taste and set aside to cool. Prepare the pastry while the filling is cooking.

Maggie Beer's Pastry

200 g of chilled unsalted butter, chopped
250 g of plain flour
½ cup of sour cream
1 beaten egg

Preheat the oven to 200 C
Grease a 23cm deep pie dish. Place the butter and flour into the bowl of a food processor, then pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the sour cream and pulse again until the dough just forms a ball. Carefully wrap the dough in plastic film and leave to rest in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes. 

Place the cooled filling into the greased pie dish, filling till it is about one centimetre below the rim. Roll out the dough until it is about 5 mm thick, then carefully folding the dough back over the rolling pin, place it over the filled pie dish and press to seal the edges. Cut three slits in the top of the pie to allow the steam to escape. Chill the filled pie for about 20 minutes before cooking as this will reduce shrinkage. 

Remove the pie from the refrigerator and coat the pastry top with beaten egg. Cook the pie for approximately 45 minutes until warmed through and the pastry is lightly golden.