My husband is a hunter of deer and because I am consumer of venison I make sure I expose myself to the reality of killing for food. I’ll be honest, each time he brings home a carcass, I consider whether my decision to eat meat is the right one for me.My husband talks about what can be described as ethical hunting. This encompasses a commitment to target practice, considering the age, sex and condition of the animal, pulling the trigger only when you know you have clean shot, respect for the animals and the land. These considerations and the fact that we try to eat from nose to tail make my carnivorous choice a more digestible one.
I do have a general interest in just how muscle and fat connects to bones and connective tissue, how joints rotate and how meat varies between breed, sex and age. So I’ll often jump out of bed at 3am when I hear the ute pull into the driveway, put the jug on and get myself ready to clean, trim and process the meat. Well truthfully, even when I talk up my past experience learning butchery at Culinary School I am usually delegated to vacuum packing and labelling.
This butchery experience was 16 years ago and because my current role is around optimising food care in refrigeration appliances, I’m probably better suited to the end processing anyway.
This pie recipe used fellow deer from one of my husband’s recent trips. I believe this recipe does the animal justice.
Makes one large pie, many small pies or a combination--
1.3kg venison, diced into 3-4cm pieces
350ml red wine
1 onion, sliced
3 tbsp whisky
2 tbsp olive oil
1 handful parsley, stalks and leaves
2 bay leaves, whole
Small handful thyme sprigs
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
Flour for dusting
Salt and pepper to season
Oil for frying
300g streaky bacon, diced
2 onions, finely diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
Small handful thyme sprigs
2 tbsp olive oil
24 brown button mushrooms, sliced
250g canned water chestnuts, drained and diced
1 lemon, juiced
1 tbsp chutney or cranberry sauce/jelly
Salt and black pepper to season
For the pies
Puff pastry for the pie tops
Short pastry for the pie bottoms
1. Mix the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the venison, cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. The following day, preheat your oven to 150ºC. Remove the venison from the marinade (reserve the marinade liquid, discard the onion, herbs and spices) and dry between paper towels. Toss the venison in the seasoned flour.
3. In a frying pan over high heat, brown the venison in batches. Transfer venison to a plate lined with paper towels to drain any excess fat.
4. Fry off the bacon in the same pan. Place the bacon and venison into a large casserole dish with a lid.
5. In the same frying pan, over a moderate heat, cook the onion, carrot and garlic in batches until soft. Turn the heat down if the vegetables start to brown. Deglaze the pan with some of the reserved marinade liquid. Transfer vegetables to the casserole dish.
6. Heat the stock and pour over the venison, bacon and vegetables.
7. Add a bay leaf and a small handful of thyme sprigs to the casserole dish.
10. Place the casserole dish, lid on, into your preheated oven.
11. Cook for 2 hours and then test the meat to see if it is tender. If it is not, keep cooking for 20 minutes and check again.
12. In a frying pan, sauté the mushrooms in the olive oil until they stop releasing liquid. Add the mushrooms to the venison along with the water chestnuts. Cook for a further 20 minutes with the casserole dish lid off.
13. After 20 minutes add lemon juice chutney/jelly and check seasoning. Remove from oven and set aside while you prepare your pastry.
14. Roll short pastry for the base of your pie(s) and puff for the tops. Cut to your desired size. I made 1 large and 12 small pies.
15. Assemble the pies and brush the pie(s) with egg wash before placing in your oven preheated to 190ºC, fan bake. Bake until the pastry is cooked and the venison filling is piping hot.
16. Serve pies with a salad of leaves, baby beets, goat’s feta, walnuts and a drizzle of olive oil.
Excess venison pie mix can be served hot with fresh pasta for an easy weeknight dinner, just add grated parmesan.
Or spoon hot venison pie mix onto of toast and top with a fried egg for a delicious and hearty breakfast.