This weekend a member of the hunt came over bearing a side of roe deer as a thank you for allowing them to shoot on our land; so on Monday it needed to be butchered into manageable pieces. After about an hour and a lot of knife sharpening I had a huge leg, a long slab of fillet, a kidney and about 2 ½ kilos of stewing meat packed away in freezer bags. You might be wondering where the shoulder went – as the deer was shot just behind the foreleg it meant there were bits of bone fragment and shot around the shoulder. Consequently, it was easier to clean and remove the bits of bone fragment from the shoulder by cutting it into stewing meat.
In France they do not tend to hang meat (in general) for very long – in this instance the deer had not been hung at all! Therefore I was interested to see how it would affect the tenderness of the meat given that I was not going to be slow cooking it before putting it in the pastry. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the deer was not at all tough. What I must stress however, is that it is incredibly important to try and remove as much of the sinew, veins and membrane as you can before you cook the meat. This can be very time consuming, but it is worthwhile as it stops the meat becoming chewy or tough.
I decided to make some pasties using a little of the stewing meat and the kidney. Last year I did a sailing course in Falmouth and it was there I discovered how comforting a good pasty can be – particularly after you had spent the entire day getting cold and wet on a boat. The thing that I noticed when I had tried them was the importance of good seasoning, as it can make or break a pasty, so don’t be shy about using a healthy amount of salt and pepper. The recipe below would work well with beef or chicken if you can’t get your hands on some venison. If you fancy making it completely vegetarian just add some other vegetables in the place of the meat, for example carrots, spinach, butternut squash, Jerusalem artichokes, etc..
Ingredients: (makes 3 large pasties)
For the pastry:
- 8oz plain flour
- 2oz chilled butter
- 2oz chilled hard margarine
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 3-4 tbsp water (to bind)
- 1 beaten egg (for glazing)
For the filling:
- 400g venison (any sinew and membrane removed and chopped into chunks)
- 1 kidney (de-veined and chopped into chunks)
- 1 medium potato (peeled and diced)
- 1 onion (diced)
- 2 baby turnips (peeled and diced)
- 2-3tbsp red wine
- sprinkling thyme
1. Firstly make the pastry – place the dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut the butter and margarine into cubes, add to the dry mix.
2. Using your fingers crumb together the mixture (don’t worry if you have a few small bits of butter that haven’t broken down).
3. Then add the water (a little bit at a time) until the pastry comes together and you can make a ball. Wrap the pastry in some cling-film and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
4. Whilst the pastry is chilling prepare you’re your filling, by mixing all of the ingredients together in a bowl, cover with cling film and set to one side until you are ready to use it.
5.Once the pastry has been chilled, remove from the fridge cut into 3 equal sized pieces. Roll out each ball on a floured surface to your preferred thickness, then using a bowl/plate as a template cut out a circle roughly 20cm in diameter.
6. Divide the filling equally between each of the pastry circles.
7. Using a pastry brush, gently brush some of the beaten egg around the edge of the pastry to help it seal when you fold it over into a “D” shape.
8. Seal the pastry together first using your fingers and then take a fork and gently press down on the edges to form a crimped edge.
9. Finally, place the pasties on an oven tray that you have lined with greaseproof paper, brush the outside of the pasties with some of the egg wash and using a knife pierce the top of the pasties twice (this will allow the steam to escape whilst it is cooking).
10. Place the pasties in an oven that you have preheated to 190C fan for 40-45 minutes. Serve.