Venison and Juniper Berry Pies with Rosemary Crust

A mate of mine grumbled recently that I have too many vegetarian recipes on my blog. I’m unapologetic about this. I think most of us could do with eating less meat. And if you do eat meat, game meat is leaner and healthier. It’s not easy to come by, but most markets have a game section.

I’m lucky enough to have a farmers’ market on my doorstep, and I picked up some venison mince this morning. My mind was on food to take to the footy tonight, and I thought it would make a lovely pie. Juniper berries are a great accompaniment to game meat. If you can’t get hold of venison, use another game meat. Duck would be wonderful. You could cut corners by buying frozen shortcrust pastry at the supermarket.

I just can’t wait to have these pies with a glass of red at the footy tonight.

Makes approx 8 medium sized pies (bigger than a party pie, smaller than a footy pie)

Shortcrust pastry:

  • 2 and a half cups plain flour
  • 120 g cold, unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary salt (see below)
  • 1/3 cup ice cold water

Filling:

  • 600 g venison mince
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 inner celery stalk & inner yellow leaves, finely sliced
  • ½ teaspoon dried sage
  • 20 juniper berries, crushed in the pestle & mortar
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1.5 tablespoons cornflour, dissolved in 1 cup water
  • rosemary salt & pepper

Topping:

  • About 3 sheets frozen puff pastry
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

To make the rosemary salt:

Pound a small handful of fresh rosemary with some salt in the pestle & mortar until the salt has turned green. Sift and discard what’s left in the sieve.

To make the pastry:

Put the flour, butter and salt in a food processor and combine until a fine sandy texture. Add the egg and slowly drizzle in the water, until a ball starts to form.

Remove, form into a ball, and wrap in cling wrap. Flatten a little, and refrigerate.

To make the filling:

Saute the onion in olive oil until soft, add the celery, carrot, sage and juniper berries. Saute for about 5 minutes. Add the mince, and stir it around until brown. Add the wine and let it reduce for a minute. Add the tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, cornflour & water, and season to taste with some of the rosemary salt and some pepper. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180 c.

Remove the pastry from the fridge, and divide in two pieces. Roll out one piece on a clean floured surface, until about half a centimeter thick.

Place one of your pie dishes on the pastry and cut out around a centimeter around it. You want some to hang over so that when it shrinks there will still be enough pastry. Place in the pie dishes, pressing in to the corners. Repeat until finished.  Prick the bottoms with a fork a few times and bake for 10 minutes. (I find with small pie cases you don’t need to worry about covering with foil and weighing down with uncooked rice or pastry weights, but if you’re making a large pie, do this).

When they have cooled a little, trim any excess pastry from the edges. Spoon the filling into the pie cases.

Take your sheets of puff pastry out of the freezer and using a bowl just slightly bigger than the top of your pie, cut out the required amount of shapes.

Brush the “lids” with some egg around the edge so it will stick well to the pie bottom. Put in place, press down with your fingers onto the top of the pie crust and trim any excess.

Brush the tops with egg. Make a little pastry topping like a leaf, if you like. I happened to have a little reindeer cookie cutter from my Christmas baking, which was a happy discovery!

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is puffed and golden.

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One thought on “Venison and Juniper Berry Pies with Rosemary Crust

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