Deeply savoury venison pie with plenty of strong British flavours; dark ale, English Mustard, beef dripping - topped with puff pastry.
1kg/2lb 2oz shoulder or leg of red deer venison, off the bone, cut into large chunks (you can ask your butcher to do this)
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon English mustard powder
4 medium carrots, finely chopped
500ml/17½fl oz dark ale
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
3 tbsp malt vinegar
large pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 large sprig fresh thyme
pinch freshly ground black pepper
2 ready-made ginger biscuits, finely grated
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Heat the dripping in a large, lidded, non-reactive flameproof casserole, then add the onions. Fry until the onions are soft and golden-brown.
Turn off the heat and sift the flour and mustard powder into the pot. Stir until you have a thickened onion mixture.
Add the meat and carrots and stir into the onion mixture. (You are not browning the venison, as this will toughen the meat.)
Add the ale, sugar, vinegar, nutmeg, thyme, freshly ground black pepper and both grated ginger biscuits. Stir once more. Cover the contents of the pot with a circle of greaseproof paper and put the lid on the casserole. Transfer to the oven and bake for 1½ hours.
Remove from the oven and season, to taste, with sea salt.
Transfer the contents of the casserole to a pie dish. Use a smaller-diameter, deep dish, as a wide shallow one will make the pie crust droop in the middle and become soggy.
Increase the temperature of the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
Roll the puff pastry out on a floured work surface to a thickness of about 7mm/¼in. Lay the pastry over the venison filling, leaving a slight overhang at the edges of the pie dish.
Crimp the edges of the pastry with a fork and brush the top of the pie evenly with the beaten egg and milk mixture.
You can fashion any pastry motif appropriate to the occasion from any leftover pastry and place it on top. Brush this with egg and milk mixture as well.
Pierce a small hole into the middle of the pastry to allow steam to escape, then place into the oven to bake for 40-45 minutes, until the pastry is a rich hazelnut brown.
Remove from the oven and serve at the table in the dish.
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