Now that winter is upon us, there's been a better time to get pickling, salting and baking.
Game ‘Cutting’ Pie
For the pastry:
double quantity of hot water crust pastry
1 large egg, beaten
For the marinade:
2 blades of mace
10 black peppercorns
4 bay leaves
peel from 1 orange
2.5g fresh thyme
2.5g dried savory
10 juniper berries
1⁄2 a clove of garlic
For the filling:
2 partridges or pheasants
500g diced venison
500g diced mixed game, e.g. rabbit, hare, duck
500g pork belly, skin removed
100g smoked streaky bacon
For the jelly:
bones and trimmings from game
1 stick of celery
1 pig’s trotter or 1⁄2 a sheet of gelatine
- Remove the breasts from the birds. You can, if you wish, remove the leg meat too and add it to the filling, but I find it’s much better employed in strengthening the jelly stock along with the rest of the carcasses.
- Start a stock by simmering the bird remains in a couple of litres of water with a carrot, an onion and a stick of celery. Add a split pig’s trotter if you can get one. If not you’ll have to set the jelly at the end, using gelatine. Add any other trimmings to the stock as you prepare the rest of the game. Simmer the stock for about 3 hours, uncovered. Strain, throwing away the flavourings and bones. Reduce the stock to around 200ml over a high heat, then cool and refrigerate.
- All the non-poultry game should be diced and marinated overnight with the Madeira, herbs, peel and chopped garlic. I suggest letting venison predominate but that’s just being fussy. Rabbit, hare, squirrel and, for all I know, kangaroo will all add to the complexity.
- Mince or chop the pork belly along with the bacon. I like the little twist that smoked streaky gives, but that’s your choice. Don’t dare to discard any fat at this point. It’s vital to the final result. You’ll want to add pepper and salt (about 5g each) as you chop.
- Use two-thirds of your hot water pastry to line a large springform cake tin. A wide, shallow pie suffers less from the shrinkage of the meat during cooking. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Lay half the marinated game in the bottom of the case (I remove the orange peel, but otherwise everything goes in). Season, then add the bird breasts as a middle layer. Season again, then add the remaining game and top with the pork. Game is extremely lean, so the fat from the pork will soak down through the meat, moistening and flavouring it.
- Take the remaining third of the pastry and roll it out to make a lid. Glue it in place with beaten egg, crimp and trim. Decorate the pie with any trimmings – it’s traditional to really go to town with this – and make a small hole in the centre of the lid. Glaze generously with more beaten egg, then bake for 20 minutes. Turn the heat down to 160°C and bake for another hour. The pastry will now be set.
- Take the pie out of the oven and unmould it from the tin, leaving it on the base. Paint the pie with another layer of eggwash, then return it to the oven and continue to bake until the internal temperature is 75°C.
- Remove the pie from the oven again and begin cooling it on a wire rack. As soon as the outside of the pie is cool enough to touch, bandage the outer wall with clingfilm and refrigerate the whole thing overnight. The bandaging holds the casing in place and also prevents any leaking during the last stage.
- The stock should be strained, cooled overnight and de-fatted, which will give you a chance to see how well it sets. Use gelatine sheets according to the instructions on the packet if it isn’t setting sufficiently.
- Warm the jellied stock until it’s liquid again and use a funnel to pour it into the hole in the top of the cold pie. Go slowly, giving it a chance to work its way into every remaining crevice. Once set, the jelly is not just delicious but forms an airtight seal around the meat, which, originally, was regarded as a method of preservation.
- Serve the game pie in cold slices with chutney or piccalilli. It will remain spectacularly good in the fridge for up to a week, where you’ll find yourself sneaking to snaffle an extra slice like a character in a P. G. Wodehouse story.
Coffee Ice Cream
75g roasted coffee beans
500g whole milk
6 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
300g double cream
- Crush up some of your coffee beans in a pestle and mortar or with the end of a rolling pin. Put them in a pan with the milk, raise the temperature to just short of boiling, then cool, cover and refrigerate overnight. This will extract all the smooth, aromatic elements of the coffee without any of the bitterness.
- Strain the milk through a sieve lined with a clean piece of J-cloth or muslin.
- Make a double boiler with a mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water and in it, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale and thickened. Now pour in the infused milk and keep whisking until you have a custard thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Pass the custard through a sieve, mix well with the cream, then chill well. Pour into an ice cream maker and churn until set.
This is quite a grown-up ice cream, low on sugar and high in coffee flavours. It works well in small servings, unadorned, or, for a really quite perky finish to a long meal, try it affogato style with a single shot of espresso poured over the top.
How To Make Salt Beef (And Build A Reuben
- Brisket for salt beef can stay in the brine for at least 10 days before being removed, rinsed and patted dry.
- Put into a lidded pot, cover with water and add your favourite aromatics. I like to keep things simple with carrots, onions and a bay leaf. You can, if you wish, add more of your pickling spice...but I’m not sure it adds anything. Simmer on top of the stove for between 2 and 4 hours. Keep the water topped up so the meat is covered. It will be done when a skewer runs through it with alarmingly little resistance.
- Carve brutally into inelegant slabs while still hot. You can serve the salt beef on a plate with some simply boiled potatoes and some of the veg from the boiling process.
- Don’t, whatever you do, serve the original ones – dredge them out with a ladle and replace with fresh carrots and onions around 20 minutes before serving time. That way you’ll have something that tastes authentic but offers at least the possibility of not collapsing into a slurry on the plate.
Alternatively, you can use your hot salt beef to build a Reuben.
- Smear two slices of rye bread with a thick layer of thousand island dressing. On one slice mound a pile of salt beef.
- Stack a layer of sauerkraut on top of the meat, then get three or more slices of Emmenthal to sit on its chest and hold it down while you slide the lot under a hot grill.
- Reunite the sandwich with its besmeared lid and serve forth with the statutory pickle. Do not expect to finish the sandwich in a single sitting. That is NOT the point.