There’s no denying a raised game pie is a labour of love, but the finished product is a thing of beauty, fine enough to grace any Yuletide table.
You will need
1 small rabbit, boned (or 500g any game meat, boned). Ask your butcher to bone the rabbit and keep the bones for you
400g haunch or saddle venison steak
2 tbsp tawny port
1 tbsp brandy
3 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
Butter for greasing
250g lean pork, such as leg
150g unsmoked streaky bacon, finely chopped
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 garlic clove, crushed
Small bunch of fresh flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp each salt and pepper
for the jellied stock
All the bones and sinews from the rabbit or other game
5 allspice berries
1 blade of mace
8 whole peppercorns
3 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
1 carrot, cut into chunks
1 onion, stuck with 4 cloves
Lemon juice to taste
11g sachet powdered gelatine
for the hot water crust pastry
560g plain flour, plus extra
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 medium free-range egg, beaten
PLUS… 1.5 litre terrine or loaf tin (28cm x 13cm) and a pie funnel
Takes 2 hours to make, 4½ hours to cook,
plus COOLING, overnight marinating and overnight chilling
1. Cut the rabbit and venison into
0.5-1cm cubes (if your butcher has not boned the rabbit, trim all the meat from the bones, then cut into cubes). Any really scrappy pieces can be saved for mincing with the pork, and any sinewy bits can go into the stock. Put the cubed meat in a bowl and pour in the port and brandy. Sprinkle with the thyme, some salt and plenty of pepper, then stir well, cover and leave in a cool place to marinate for 2 hours or overnight.
2. To make the stock, put the bones (plus sinewy bits) in a deep saucepan with enough cold water to cover. Add the spices, herbs, carrot and the onion stuck with cloves (don’t add salt). Bring to the boil, cover, then simmer for about 2 hours – you’ll need to skim off any scum that forms on the surface during the initial stages of the cooking. Strain through a sieve into a fresh saucepan, discard all the solids, then boil rapidly for 15 minutes until it has reduced to about 500ml and has a good flavour. Season to taste with salt and lemon juice, then whisk in the gelatine. Cover the mixture, then chill for a few hours or overnight until set.
3. Preheat the oven to 170°C/fan150°C/gas 3½. Fold a sheet of foil in half to make a long thin rectangle. Butter the terrine or loaf tin, then line the centre with the folded foil so the ends of the strip overlap the sides. These will help you pull out the finished pie. Pile the pork, bacon and any reserved game scraps together on a large board, then chop with a sharp knife until finely minced. Add the spices, garlic, parsley and the salt and pepper, then mix well. Strain the marinated game of its juices (discard the juices) and set aside.
4. To make the pastry, sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Put the lard and 250ml water in a pan, then heat until the lard has melted and the water is boiling. Immediately pour into the bowl and stir with
a spoon. When the dough is cool enough to handle, turn it out onto
a lightly floured work surface, then knead lightly and briefly.
5. Weigh 700g of the dough, then put the rest in a clean, loosely folded plastic bag to prevent it from drying out. Roll out the 700g piece of dough on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle slightly larger than the terrine/tin (about 30cm x 14cm). Put the dough in the terrine/tin, then gradually work it, from the centre, up the sides of the tin. Work it with your fingers, gently squeezing the dough up the sides and 3-5cm above the rim.
6. Make sure the pastry is as even as possible with no obvious cracks or thin areas. Put a quarter of the minced pork mixture in the terrine/tin, then spread it out to cover the base. Cover that with a third of the marinated game. Repeat this layering twice more, then finish with a final quarter of the pork mixture, pressing down well to ensure there are no air holes in the filling. Brush all the exposed pastry with the beaten egg. Remove the rest of the dough from the bag and roll out to a rectangle suitable for a lid (about 28cm x 13cm). Carefully lay over the pie and press into position on top of the filling. Squeeze the lid and sticking-up edges together to seal, then trim the excess pastry with scissors to give an edge of about 1-2cm, standing up proud. Carefully flute the pastry edge with your fingers.
7. Cut a small steam hole in the top, then re-roll the pastry trimmings, cut out holly-shaped leaves and stick them on top with a little beaten egg. Glaze the top with more egg, then bake for 2½ hours, glazing the top again after 1 hour, until golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely, then put in the fridge to firm up overnight.
8. The next day, carefully remove the pie from the terrine/tin. (If the pie doesn’t come out easily, warm in a very low oven for 5 minutes.) Warm the jellied stock slightly until it has a pouring consistency. Pop the pie back in the terrine/tin to protect it, then use a skewer to unblock the steam hole. Using a pie funnel, gradually pour the stock into the pie (add as much as it will take). Chill again for 2 hours to set the jelly, then remove from the terrine/tin and serve with English mustard.
PER SERVING (BASED ON 14) 399kcals, 20.7g fat (7.9g saturated), 21.1g protein, 31.1g carbs (2.3g sugars), 1.3g salt, 1.9g fibre