Venison pie (almost) like Mamma used to make

by Jeanne on February 27, 2007

in Recipes - meat, Recipes - South African, Waiter, there's something in my...

VenisonPieTitle

So… I have managed the unique distinction of being late for my own event!!  Aaarrrgh!  I put it down to two things:  firstly, the fact that my job is absolutely crazy busy at the moment, and secondly that when I finally got round to wanting to post, Typepad was unavailable yesterday.  Well, that's my story and I am sticking to it :)

But moving rapidly along. 

As I announced about three weeks ago, we are into the second edition of the sparkly new event "Waiter, there's something in my…", and in keeping with the chilly weather outside, the theme was chosen to be pies.  Now the funny thing about pies is that I like to eat them, but I never seem to make them – clearly it was time for a steep learning curve!  I did think briefly about making a double-crust pie and using the pastry that I normally use for my quiches as a base, with a puff-pastry lid.  But then I realised that I hardly have time to see my husband these days and that this was no time for culinary bravery beyond the call of duty ;-)  So no double crusts here then.

The easy part was what to put inside the pie.  When I was at school, one of the big treat meals my mom used to make (infrequently) was a venison joint.  Now although people seem to think that South African boys all grow up hunting, fishing and generally running riot in the African bush, nobody in our family was ever much of a hunter, so we had to rely on the local butcher and his supply was erratic.  In fact, I don't think I knew anybody that actually went hunting for venison until I met my husband.  His opening gambit in our relationship was to invite me over for a venison dinner as he happened to have a freezer full of meat from a recent trip – now how is a girl supposed to resist that?!  And clearly the trick worked as we're still together, 9 years after our first date :)

But I digress.  At home, we did eat venison often enough that I developed a real taste for it.  My mom used to cover the venison joint in bacon and roast it for dinner, to be served with dried peach compote.  I used to think this sweet-savoury pairing was the most natural thing in the world until much later in life when I encountered people who don't like the fruit/meat combination.  Apparently it is a very South African thing (see our raisin-flecked bobotie and yellow rice) and a culinary quirk that we share with middle-eastern cooking like tagines.  But the best was yet to come… The day after we'd had the venison joint (or maybe the day after that) my mom would make a meal of the leftovers, and more often than not this would take the form of venison pie or wildsvleispastei in Afrikaans (literally "wild meat pie"). The meat would be fall-apart tender from the slow roasting the day before, and she would chop it up together with any leftover bacon bits and peaches in a meaty gravy of its own juices before putting a pastry lid on it.  The smell would drive me totally insane with hunger long before the food was actually ready, and the taste was rich, spicy, meaty and sweet.  Heaven.

So when I was at Borough Market a couple of weeks ago and spotted some venison goulash, I didn't think twice about snapping it up for a treat for me and Nick – and when this theme came up I knew immediately what the goulash would become!  My (excellent) venison was fallow deer [!!Bambi alert!!  Sensitive readers, don't click!!] from a company called Mid-Devon Fallow.  The company is run by Peter Kent who sells venison products from his Keyethern Farm at Borough and can also be contacted on 01837 810 028.  Because I wasn't cooking a joint into melting softness, I had to take the next best option – a great stew to use as the basis for a great pie.  The aroma as I was browning the meat was very very gamey – more like liver than meat – but very appealing when combined with the spiciness of the cloves. 

And how did it turn out?  Oh. My. Word.  I was astonished at how much like my mom's version this tasted, because I made up the recipe as I went along.  Clearly there is something to this genetics thing ;-).  The meat was very rich and the pepperiness of the meat and the added cloves made for a heady combination.  But for me the key to the overall fabulousness was the peaches.  Their sweetness had infused the entire dish and balanced the meatiness perfectly. Oh yes, and there was a light and crispy crust on top.  It was one of those dishes that you want to eat in teensy weensy little forkfuls just so that you can make it last longer.

Just like I used to do when my mom made it.

VenisonPie2

 
VENISON PIE (WILDSVLEISPASTEI) WITH DRIED PEACHES

Ingredients (for 2-3 people)

500g venison, cut into goulash-sized chunks
1 large carrot, sliced in rounds
3-4 shallots, peeled and halved
olive oil for frying
about 10 dried peach halves, cut into smaller chunks and soaked in warm water if very hard
300ml red wine
2 bay leaves
2 cups beef stock
1/2 tsp ground cloves
a circle of puff pastry large enough to cover your pie dish (I used ready-made pastry, mea culpa!)

Method

Marinate the meat for about 24 hours in a mixture of about 150ml red wine, a glug of olive oil and 1/4 tsp of cloves.

Remove the meat from the marinade and reserve.  Heat a little oil (I used grapeseed) in a large pot and fry the meat until browned on all sides, then add the onions and shallots.  Fry for another couple of minutes.

Add the beef stock, 150ml of red wine, the marinade, bay leaves, dried peaches, carrots and the rest of the ground cloves. 

Bring to the boil and then cover the pot tightly, turn down the heat and allow to simmer for 3 hours or until the meat is very tender.  Much of the liquid should have boiled away by then, but if necessary, thicken the gravy with thickening granules.

Remove the bay leaves and transfer the meat, vegetables and gravy to an oven-proof pie dish (or in my case, to my beloved cast iron skillet!). 

Roll out the defrosted (preferably room temperature) puff pastry to a thickness of about 4mm and use a plate slightly larger than your pie dish to cut a circular lid.  Place the lid on the pie filling and tuck in around the edges or use a fork to crimp it around the perimeter of the pie dish.  Decorate the top as desired.

Place the pie in a pre-heated oven at 200C for about 40 minutes or until the pastry is nicely browned.  Serve with green vegetables – mine paired nicely with garlicky sauteed leeks and courgettes.

**STOP PRESS**  The Waiter, there's something in my… pie roundup has now been posted with an amazing 65 pie recipes featured!  Something for everyone.

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephanie February 27, 2007 at 6:19 pm

I happen to know you’re telling the truth: I tried to post a comment last night, about the potatoes in the previous post, and was rudely informed Typepad was not working at that moment.
I had lots of venison as a kid (hmmm…could be why I’m a veggie now?); my step-dad was all about the slaughtering of wild animals. We’d turn it into just about everything: sausage, jerky, steaks, you name it. Gawd…I got so sick of eating deer!!

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sam February 27, 2007 at 8:26 pm

I was already to be totally amazed as to the wonderfulness of your pastry making skills when I noted you cheated almost as much as I did.

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neil February 27, 2007 at 8:33 pm

You’re not alone in the fruit/meat thing. A Swiss mate’s favourite way with venison was to slowly stew it with fruit, he used peaches too and bananas. You think you’re slow with your post, I’ve only just thought of a recipe, should have a post up tomorrow or the day after.

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MeltingWok February 27, 2007 at 11:39 pm

Hi Jeanne, I’ve never tried venison or much of a pie person to be honest. Thanks to you, your wonderful quotes have managed to put a kick behind my mind, my back and all sideways haha, I was totally jazzed and inspired !! I’m so glad I found your site for me to share and participate in your WTSIM event. Most of all, I’m so glad I’ve conquered my fear in pie baking, and perhaps next time, I could be in your next even, possibily call : “waiter, there’s more in my pie” ? *grins* Cheers & you have a pleasant one :)

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Pille February 28, 2007 at 11:25 am

Ok. I so want a bambi (sorry, venison) stew – or even better, pie – now!!! With peaches, please..

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kat February 28, 2007 at 1:20 pm

Hi Jeanne – this post looks fabulous, I can just smell it! I shall be giving it a try over the weekend with Oisin venison which is farm-reared deer from the North of Ireland (made briefly famous by Richard Corrigan in last year’s BBC series The Great British Menu). I must confess that growing up in SA we were not the jagter types either, so my experience of venison pre-europe was in the majority kudu biltong, the occasional impala roast at a KNP restaurant or the like! If the winds keep up at the galeforce they currently are, rest assured a wildsvleispastei will bring some definite home warmth to Dublin this weekend! Thanks again for the idea.

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girlie February 28, 2007 at 1:20 pm

Jeanne, glad to see our game meat pie is in such good company! This venison pie looks delicious!
We’re big fans of the meat/fruit combo as well (witness the red currant jam with the hare pie) but I definitely know people who don’t like the two together. Husbear’s uncle picks grapes out of chicken salad.
Congratulations, also, on nine years!

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girlie February 28, 2007 at 1:23 pm

Jeanne, glad to see our game meat pie is in such good company! This venison pie looks delicious!
We’re big fans of the meat/fruit combo as well (witness the red currant jam with the hare pie) but I definitely know people who don’t like the two together. Husbear’s uncle picks grapes out of chicken salad.
Congratulations, also, on nine years!

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Christina February 28, 2007 at 2:51 pm

Mmm, sounds great. I love the venison/peach compote idea myself – sounds like a great combo that I must remember to try some time. And fruit/meat is a big hit in medieval dishes also!
The pie sounds and looks ab-so-lute-ly fantastic. I think you’ve given me venison withdrawal symptoms… ;-D

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johanna February 28, 2007 at 2:56 pm

i can vouch for the excellence of this pie from the last spoonful which you managed to carry all the way through london so i could have a taste… game just has to go with fruit, be it oranges in the red cabbage we traditionally eat with venison and deer, or, also custom back home, a spoonful of cranberry compote served in a peach half!

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bea at La tartine gourmande February 28, 2007 at 3:13 pm

Delicious looking Jeanne. I share the same love for fruit and meat combinations. Talk about tajines and I am here!!!

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Brilynn February 28, 2007 at 3:21 pm

My Grandma makes the best venison pie ever! My Dad goes hunting once a year and gets a dear and then my Grandma makes a bunch of pies to put in the freezer and enjoy later.

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Ibikunle February 28, 2007 at 6:57 pm

Very very nice blog!
Ibikunle,
http://WWW.ibikunle.blogspot.com

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Ellie March 1, 2007 at 2:27 pm

This pie sounds delicious! My grandfather used to have a deer farm back in Korea and my mother tells me of all the delicious foods my grandmother cooked with them. Ahh, if only I had an accessible source of venison here :(

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ejm March 1, 2007 at 7:59 pm

That sounds delicious, Jeanne! I love the idea of the dried peaches.
-Elizabeth
P.S. I can’t tell you how much pleasure it gave me (not in a mean way) that you were late for your own event… better late than never, I always say. AND that venison pie is definitely worth the wait!

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Scott at Real Epicurean March 1, 2007 at 11:21 pm

Yum yum yum! Anything like this ranks high on my list of favourite dishes. Makes me think about my trips to the Scottish highlands to see the family!

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Niki March 1, 2007 at 11:37 pm

Whoa, that looks so very good. I love a good pie, but have to put my hand up at being one of those fruit & meat combo = heresy people…

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Susan from Food "Blogga" March 2, 2007 at 1:21 am

The addition of the cloves and the fruit must compliment the meat wonderfully. And your crust looks so beautiful! I agree about the genetics too.;)

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Ros March 2, 2007 at 3:32 pm

I sometimes feel a bit sorry for the people who insist on not mixing fruit with a main course. They miss out on so many great things like this! I haven’t tried venison with peach but I can imagine it being lovely.

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Cyndie Planck March 4, 2007 at 1:32 am

Hi Jeanne, My mouth is watering, and I actually read it out loud to my husband, (born in Cape Town, now living in the US,) and he is melting…… I am going to make this up, we have several family members and friends that hunt, so we always have access to venison. I have to admit, I never had the fruit and meat combo until meeting my husband 8 years ago, and I have been hooked every since. I wish there was more of it here stateside! Thanks for the recipe!

Reply

Cyndie Planck March 4, 2007 at 1:32 am

Hi Jeanne, My mouth is watering, and I actually read it out loud to my husband, (born in Cape Town, now living in the US,) and he is melting…… I am going to make this up, we have several family members and friends that hunt, so we always have access to venison. I have to admit, I never had the fruit and meat combo until meeting my husband 8 years ago, and I have been hooked every since. I wish there was more of it here stateside! Thanks for the recipe!

Reply

Cyndie Planck March 4, 2007 at 1:32 am

Hi Jeanne, My mouth is watering, and I actually read it out loud to my husband, (born in Cape Town, now living in the US,) and he is melting…… I am going to make this up, we have several family members and friends that hunt, so we always have access to venison. I have to admit, I never had the fruit and meat combo until meeting my husband 8 years ago, and I have been hooked every since. I wish there was more of it here stateside! Thanks for the recipe!

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anthony March 6, 2007 at 5:46 am

peaches!
Truly the trauma of the great 70s chicken apricot conflagration is behind us and we can move on.

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Fahara March 6, 2007 at 12:58 pm

Ooooh, sounds wonderful Jeanne! I’m not usually a fan of fruit&meat combos (other than ham & pineapple) but I think this sounds really worth a go! Now to catch me a deer…..

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Bron March 9, 2007 at 6:15 am

Peaches, Vension and Pastry = perfect!
Will note this one down for the cooler months ahead, yum!

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vikas March 29, 2007 at 4:01 pm

Hi,
This is vikas.I have gone through the information in your , its surely amazing. Here is a website which is pint-sized relevant to yours. Hope it will be of use for you.pastry chefs

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Vinny December 1, 2008 at 9:00 am

Truly very tasty. cooked thirecipe this weekend. It went down a treat. I added a more wine and cloves since it was double quantity of everything but, used the slow cooker to tenderize the meat for 8hrs. The peaches really do compliment this dish. Thanks for sharing.

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Vanora June 25, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Makes me homesick ! as an ex S African I have a different spin on Venison. We’d coat the meat with plain yogurt and refrigerate 2 days. Wipe meat clean with papertowel, then braise, in saucepan, with a slightly fatty pork with amongst many other spices , crushed coriander, until meat pulls apart and then add mushrooms, carrots, peas, celery and spices. Make a creamy roux for the sauce and then assemble into pie format.One girlfriend would slice hard boiled egg and thin piece of ham and layer this in the mix, oh man talk about a divine experience. As you gather I’m not a sweet peaches type of girl!

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Vanora June 25, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Hi
thanks for your venison pie ideas and you make me homesick when I see cook sisters. My Mom visits here in the USA and she made these for a party and man did they get rave reviews!
My Auntie makes a Melk Tert (Baked Milk custard pie) to die for and I posted a comment on my venison idea. Have not had venison for so long but have made new friends who hunt so … who knows? might get a charitable contribution one of these days.
I’m keeping in contact with all my cousins and ‘tanies’ in S Africa on Face Book and I’m homesick for some South african cape wine farm restaurants!

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Elana October 21, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Hey
This recipe sounds amazing. I’m definitely going to try it. But, how do I change the recipe if I have already cooked venison?

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Jeanne October 21, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Hi Elana
If you already have cooked venison, you should reheat it on the stove, either in a little water or red wine, until is it bubbling and hot right through. Then follow the rest of the recipe:
Remove the bay leaves and transfer the meat, vegetables and gravy to an oven-proof pie dish.
Roll out the defrosted (preferably room temperature) puff pastry to a thickness of about 4mm and use a plate slightly larger than your pie dish to cut a circular lid. Place the lid on the pie filling and tuck in around the edges or use a fork to crimp it around the perimeter of the pie dish. Decorate the top as desired.
Place the pie in a pre-heated oven at 200C for about 40 minutes or until the pastry is nicely browned. Serve with green vegetables

Reply

Kavey May 9, 2010 at 4:27 pm

I love fruit and meat combinations, just love them!
I made a pie for the first time, recently, it was wonderful. Must make another soon!

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