Thursday, April 29, 2010

Venison pie

My brother is very proud of his ability to transform from city slicker to bushman on weekends, and we all tell him he's very clever when he shoots a stag (a.k.a. bambi's daddy), because he typically turns up shortly afterward on the doorstep with back steaks, and sausages, and casserole meat. And a beard, usually, but I try not to judge.
Casserole meat is perfect for pie.  Venison casserole meat is especially good for pie.
I love pie for a number of reasons, but mostly because it's really easy, and really really tasty!
First, the meat.  Cut 1kg of venison into a rough (appprox 5cm) dice.  Shake it around in a bag with about 3 Tbsp flour, and 1 Tbsp paprika (I used smoked, but plain old everyday paprika is fine), until it's coated.  Do this in batches so there's room to shake it!
Brown the meat in a frypan on high heat, with a little oil.  Again, do this in batches so that the meat is in a single layer.  The aim is not to cook the meat, just to seal it and add a little flavour when it browns.
Transfer the browned meat to a slow cooker**, and add the following:
  • 2 carrots (diced)
  • 1 leek (diced)
  • 1-2 cups button mushrooms
  • 2 medium onions, diced and browned (always brown onion before slow cooking.  Trust me, the difference to flavour is huge). 
  • 4 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup of goood pinot noir
  • 4 rashers of bacon (cut into small pieces).
Now for my favourite part.  Turn the slow cooker** to HIGH for 30 minutes to get it cranking, then drop it back to LOW and find something else to do for 4 hours.  I watched a football game in the sun, it was good.

To turn a casserole into a pie, pre-heat oven to 220C.  Grab a sheet of pre-prepared puff pastry, and leave on the bench for 10 minutes to defrost (cover with a damp tea-towel to stop it drying out).
Transfer the casserole from the slow-cooker to your pie dish(try to resist the urge to eat it all straight away - again, you're going to have to trust me, but everything is better with pastry.  This will be worth the wait.).  Cover with the pastry sheet, trimming if you need to.  Use a sharp knife to make a couple of small steam vents, or go all out and carve a stag's head if you're feeling fancy.  I was feeling fancy.  Brush with milk, or beaten egg, and pop into the oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Don't spend too much time carving pretty pictures into the pastry, you can't really see them without concentrating!
Enjoy.  Preferably with more pinot noir.  And brussels sprouts if you can handle it.

**If you don't have a slow cooker, add one and a half cup of wine, and simmer for an hour or two on low heat, either on the stovetop, or in the oven.  Or buy a slow cooker - with winter coming, I'll be posting lots of slow cooker recipes!

Don't hate the brussels sprouts. They're delicious. Honest.

I know that this particular vegetable does not always delight others as it does me.. but in my experience, most haters have just had them over- or under-cooked.
If it has been more than 10 years, you have to give these a second chance.  Do you really think your tastebuds haven't evolved since you left home?  How can you be sure they weren't just undercooked?  Just try these, once, and check.  Then I'll let you off the hook.  I promise.  I just have to be sure first.
This is probably not how your mother made them.

Trim the base of each sprout, removing about 1cm of stalk so that the outer layer of leaves comes away easily.  There is no need to cut crosses into the stem, and I suspect this is one of the contributors to overcooked sprouts - they just don't need it (and it's extra work!)
Throw into a roasting dish or onto a baking tray with a lip (so they don't roll off!)  Stick to a single layer, don't crowd them.

Toss in a handful or two of whole (shelled) almonds.  Drizzle with oil, and a splash of balsamic vinegar, and shake 'em to coat.  

Pop into a 200C oven for about 10-15 minutes, shaking once.  They're ready when golden brown on at least one side, and the outer leaves are slightly transparent.
I can eat this many without sharing.  They're like candy.. but be careful, they're really hot when they come out of the oven, and I may have burned my mouth.  More than once.

Longest 2 weeks ever

Yeah, sorry about that.  Things have been a bit busy.

I'm back now, and will kick off with a full meal: main and side dish.  And I'm posting the side dish even though I know at least half of you will be too chicken to try it.  Don't judge me, but it's one of my favourites.  I had to share.