Game Pie 2014…

Last year I made a load of game pie filling – it was staggeringly good. I froze it in individual foil dishes, my intention being to top each one, in due course, with a Stilton and suet crust. However, as some of you might recall, I wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders last year, and a lapse of attention caused me to fail to close the freezer properly – with predictable results. I got to eat just one portion (served in a ring of cheesy mash), the rest went in the bin along with everything else that had been thawed and refrozen several times before I realised my error.

Fast-forward to this year, and I’m going to make something similar. I wasn’t overly impressed with the mixed, diced, game from Waitrose last year, and the only game I can buy locally is farmed venison (and farmed rabbit at an absurd 20 quid a kilo (Sainsbury’s) – in what universe does Thumper cost more than Bambi?**). Oh, and the “diced” (for which read randomly hacked to ragged bits) venison I was very unkind about from Sainsbury’s is no longer available – hopefully due, at least in part, to my unfavourable review.

**I can’t be the only one who thinks that. It’s no longer available.

I no longer shop at Waitrose, and I’m not going to change that just to be able to buy partridge and pheasant to go with the venison, so what I intend to do is make a fruity venison casserole studded with nuggets of pork liver.

OK – enough with the gasps of horror – trust me, it WILL work.

I’m restricting the fruit to a mix of sour and sweet cherries (heavier on the sour this year), with small shards of dried apricot to provide tiny, contrasting, hits of sweetness, the whole thing given depth from a hefty dose of powdered Ceps (plus a little flour to thicken it slightly but, mainly, to hold the Cep powder in suspension as it’s prone to sinking). And there might well be a judicious hit of booze – I’ve got a very nice IPA from Shepherd Neame that will be good with this.

There might be venison meatballs too. I’ve found that, no matter how assiduously you roll them, meatballs formed from sausages, as will be the case here, will always try to revert to their original shape when cooked. The trick is to either not care about that, as it doesn’t affect the taste at all, or to put the meat through a mincer on the coarsest possible setting. That will break down the structure without further mincing it too much and your meatballs should stay round (ish). Personally, I’m in the don’t really care camp as it’s just for me. Were I having guests the I’d go with the mincer option. Your call.

**Re-think: I was going to use Sainsbury’s venison sausages for this, but having looked at the ingredients there are too many additives. Same with the basic venison burgers. The TTD Venison Burgers are the best option at 90% venison and the only additive is sodium metabisulphite (preservative), which cooking will destroy.

The recipe will, of course, be posted here and for the keen cooks among you, last year’s is worth a look, too. A tip, though – don’t use frozen butternut squash, use fresh – frozen falls to mush. In fact it would be fine to omit it entirely if you wish.

I’m hoping to make this – it depends so very much on my pain levels which are pretty damned high right now** – it’ll be a simpler version than last year’s, I think, and more Spoonie-friendly. And as last year, using various “cuts” of Quorn and, perhaps, Tempeh for a flavour and texture contrast, would be fine for a veggie version.

**Got a phone call from my GP – he’s now substantially increased my morphine dose in accordance with instructions from my surgeon – progress at last! He’s making the change from the next prescription – which is going to be a lot sooner than he thinks!