When spaniel eyes are calling

travfoodmenu-philippaspanielWE love Scotland and are green with envy of the amount of time our favourite travelling chef, Philippa Davis from Shaftesbury, spends cooking for clients in the Highlands. On her latest assignment north of the border she found a new best friend …

I only have pies for you …

I knew this was going to be a top class job when I was the told the driver who was to collect and take me to the Scottish shooting estate was called James. I had then assumed that one of the gamekeepers would be called Mellors (but it was not the case). Despite this minor oversight I came to learn that my destination, Cawdor Estate, is where some of the top shots and field sport lovers come to get some of their best days shooting of the season….

I was based at their lodge (Drynachan) and with a professional kitchen, impressive game larder and access to some of the finest seafood in the UK it was a delight to whip up the copious amounts of meals these sorts of jobs require. However when not frantically cooking I did have time to make a new friend…

Now I know they say dogs are a girl’s best friend …oh no wait that’s diamonds! Anyway this spaniel became excellent company and entertainment for those occasional evenings we didn’t have clients in the lodge or I fancied taking a bracing walk on the moors.

Now let’s says you are a spaniel and you need to get from A to B. There are four choices to get there: (1)A pebble track; (2) a fast running chilly burn; (3) some nice sheep-mown grass; (4) clumps of bracken and heather.

Which one would you take? Well, if you were a spaniel you would take route four and leap into heather and bracken and with gazelle-like attitude bound your way towards B, then having reached B you would return to A through the chilly water, possibly stopping for a quick drink and submersion. Then as route four was so much fun you would return to B bounding back through the bracken. Also at some point you would roll your eyes at your boring walking buddy who decided to take route one.

Having spent the time up there cooking so much game I thought I would give you a dish that can use it all – a perfect winter warming game pie.

Game Pietravfoodmenu-philippapie

Serves 12 – 14

1 kilo venison haunch (chopped into 1 inch square pieces)
4 hare haunches (de boned and meat chopped into roughly 1 inch square pieces)
2 pheasants (skin off and breasts diced into 6)
4 partridge (skin off and breasts diced into 4)
4 grouse (skin off and breasts diced into 4)
100g plain flour

(you need about 2 kilos of game meat in total – although it is ideal to have a good mix, if you are lucky enough to have a freezer brimming with game, use what you have).

6 tbs olive oil for the meat and 2 tbs extra for the vegetables.
4 red onions (peeled and small diced)
1 head of celery (washed and small diced)
8 crushed junipers
4 crushed cloves
1 tbs rosemary finely chopped
1 tbs. thyme finely chopped
200ml sloe gin
200ml red wine

For game stock: game bones, 2 peeled white onions, 5 bay leaves, 1 tbs black peppercorns, 1 tsp juniper berries, 5 sprigs of thyme, 1 head of garlic chopped in half (you can leave the skin on), 2 sticks celery

To assemble the pie: 350g short crust pastry, 300g puff pastry, 1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tbs milk

First make a game stock: Take all the carcasses from the birds (and the bones if you have them from the venison haunch) and give them a quick rinse. Put them in a large pot and cover with cold water, add the onions, garlic, bay, thyme, juniper. Bring to a boil then turn down to simmer and let it cook for at least an hour…

Then pre heat the oven to 160°C.

travfoodmenu-philippacawdorPlace the flour in a large bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Toss all the chopped meat in the seasoned flour. Put a large frying pan on a medium heat, add about 2 tbs. of the olive and fry 1/3 the meat until brown then place in a large roasting dish. Repeat in batches with the rest of the meat and olive oil. Once all the meat has been browned deglaze the pan with the sloe gin and wine and pour this onto the meat.

In the same pan and with the 2 tbs extra of olive oil fry the vegetables and spices/ herbs till slightly caramelised. Add this to the browned meat. Strain the stock and pour enough on to cover the pie mix. Place a layer of baking paper on top then cover tightly with foil. Bake in a 160 °C oven for 3 – 4 hours (all the meat must be tender. When cooked remove from the oven, check for seasoning and allow to cook completely.

Pre heat the oven to 180°C. Line a pie dish with short crust pastry. Add the cooled game pie mix then top with puff pastry rolled to fit the top of the pie dish. Crimp the edges and brush with the egg yolk/ milk mix. Stab a few holes in the pastry to let the steam out ( otherwise you will get a soggy pie) and if you have any spare pastry you can decorate with a few pastry leaves. Bake in a pre heated oven 180°C for 50 mins – 1 hour – the centre need to be piping hot and the pastry golden.

Serve with buttery mashed potato and some greens.

For more of Philippa’s postcards recipes visit her website www.philippadavis.com