Game Pie

Game Pie

Serves eight hungry hunters

Boxing Day, and despite your massive efforts in the kitchen during the previous twenty-four hours, more food is required to feed your healthy-walking, out-hunting, let’s-all-get-fit outdoor types.  Game pie is the answer.  It is filling, beautiful, utterly delicious and makes a jaw-dropping centrepiece for the cold table.  You can – indeed you should – make it two or three days in advance.  Fill in the spaces with salad, chutneys and some baked potatoes and you’re all set.

Of course all game pies are made with that mysteriously tricky-sounding pastry, a hot water crust.  Well I’ll let you into a secret, it’s a doddle.  Follow the rules and you can’t go wrong.  Just one pointer – there is no substitute for lard.  It’s not common here in southern France, so I have to trot along to the butcher and winkle some out of him.  What a sweetie, he spent a good five minutes digging some out, putting it in a tub, sealing it, wrapping it and then asked if I wanted anything else… I didn’t of course.  He charged me sixty cents and I felt an absolute heel!

These quantities make a 15cm, 6 inch pie, for which I use a deep loose base cake tin.  You could also use a proper 22cm French game pie mould, if you can find one.

Ingredients

For the pastry

175g lard
500g plain flour
large pinch salt
I egg to glaze and seal

For the filling

200g pork (any cut will do, but you need some fat on it, as a last resort you can even use sausage meat)
200g veal
100g streaky bacon
breasts from one pheasant, skinned and cut into fairly large strips (you can use any game, of course, about 200g of meat should do the trick)
12 fresh juniper berries (optional)
1 teaspoon mustard
a teaspoon of chopped fresh herbs, I use thyme or rosemary
a good grind of black pepper
1 teaspoon of salt

For the jellied stock

200ml pheasant stock
a good slosh of red wine
1 teaspoon salt
2 level teaspoons or two leaves gelatine

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C

Grease and line the tin.  This is a precaution and not strictly necessary.  If you are using a proper game pie mould I wouldn’t bother.

Chuck the pork, veal, bacon, salt, pepper, mustard, herbs and red wine into the processor and whizz until you have a fairly coarse mixture.

Put the mixture in a bowl in the fridge, with your pheasant breasts and rinse out the processor ready for the pastry.

Put 200mls water and the lard in a saucepan and bring gently to the boil, pour it into the processor and add the flour and salt whizz until you have a smooth, pliable dough.  Put it in a bowl, cover it and let it rest for a minute or so.

Cut a quarter of the pastry off for the lid, keep it covered and warm while you make the pie.  Roll out the pastry and line the tin, pushing it up and round the sides with your hands until it hangs over the top.  Trim, carefully and begin to fill.  Add a third of the pie filling, push in four junipers and lay half the pheasant breasts on top, repeat, finishing with the final third.  Smooth the top and quickly roll out the lid.  Stretch it to fit and crimp it firmly round the edges.  Cut a cross in the centre and fold back the edges.  Decorate with the scraps of pastry and glaze the lid with the beaten egg.  Bake for 30 mins at 200 degrees, then turn the oven down to 170 degrees and bake for a further 1 hour 30 mins.

Make the jellied stock.  Put all the ingredients in a jug in the microwave and heat.  Stir until all the gelatine has dissolved.

Take your gloriously golden pie out of the oven and leave to cool for half an hour.  Very carefully remove the tin and sit it on its final resting plate.  I inherited a fabulous pheasant encrusted meat platter, just the thing.  Now wait another half hour and pour in about a third of the cooling stock.  If it won’t go down give the filling a poke with a skewer.  Leave the pie for a good hour to set, then fill a little further, repeat until you can’t get any more in.  Now wrap the whole affair in cling film and put it in a cold place until needed.

On Boxing Day, lay your table with the best you have and proudly place your triumphant pie in the centre in all its seasonal splendour.  It knocks spots off a boring old ham, I promise you.

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Easy Peasy Pheasant Game Pie from French Vie

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