I was recently asked by a friend who was visiting what Scottish food was. I explained that to my mind Scottish food is defined by produce rather than flavour. However I also realised when asked by Jus-Rol to create a recipe for them, that if you asked a cross section of Scots the same question a fair few would say ‘soggy pastry’! Now while this may sound horrible to the uninitiated, to me it means pure joy; that sweet, moist, layer of pastry directly above the filling which soaks up the juices and speaks of the safety of childhood memories, of Ne’erday and family gatherings.
And this takes me back to the produce. You can put just about anything under pastry and create a wholesome pie, leftovers are particularly wonderful. However when it comes to entertaining friends and showcasing Scottish produce there’s something very special about using ‘wild’ food. And when you consider 80% of Scotland’s population live in only 10% of the land mass then there’s plenty of wild food potential. This pie uses wild venison, a strongly flavoured and lean meat, coupled with wild mushrooms (fresh if available), wild herbs and flowers and a traditional Scottish ale flavoured with heather flowers. You can obviously use any ale but Fraoch from Williams Brothers adds to the flavour greatly.
All that’s left is to give the meat a long slow cook over the hob and then roll over the pastry and bake. Simple and flavoursome entertaining.
Venison, mushroom and heather ale pie
Ingredients (Serves 4-6)
1 kg stewing venison (preferably wild) cut into roughly inch dice
25g dried porcini mushrooms (or 75g fresh wild mushrooms roughly chopped)
250g chestnut mushrooms roughly chopped
1 onion roughly sliced
1 heaped tsp dried wild thyme (or 3 sprigs fresh thyme)
2 heaped tsp dried heather flowers
Half bottle Fraoch heather ale (or a hoppy ale)
500g block puff pastry
Olive oil for browning
Salt and pepper
1. Reconstitute the porcini in 100ml boiling water for 20 minutes or so.
2. In a heavy based casserole dish brown the venison well in a good glug of olive oil, you’ll probably need to do this in several little batches. Add the herbs and stir.
3. Strew in the onions and mushrooms, add in the porcini and liquor and pour over the beer (you’ll need a little more than half a bottle if using wild mushrooms), season with a good grinding of salt, stir and cover on a medium heat.
4. When the beer starts to bubble turn the heat right down and braise for around 2.5-3 hours until the meat is tender. Keep an eye on the liquid to make sure it doesn’t dry out
5. When the stew is almost ready set the oven to 200C. Transfer the stew to a pie dish when ready or leave in the casserole if suitable. Roll the pastry out to a few millimetres thickness and cover the stew.
6. Whisk the egg and using a pastry brush (or good old fashioned fingers, clean ones) give the pastry an egg wash. Cut a small steam hole and place in the oven for 30 minutes until golden brown.