I’ve quite often made a gamey version of a shepherd’s pie when I have some venison or game trimmings knocking around, or I’ve saved some up in the freezer I just hate throwing such things away, and there’s always a good meal to be had with what could be regarded as scraps to some. To make a gamekeeper’s version with venison, you can use the tougher parts of the outer muscles of the haunch or, if you’re not dealing with the whole haunch, as mentioned above, you could use some minced braising venison such as shoulder or neck. Depending on how long your venison has
been hung or the age of it, you can cut the meat into small chunks and give it a bit of a marinade in red wine, juniper and thyme before mincing (if you’re going to mince it yourself, that is) this will give the pie a bit more flavour if you’re using a younger animal, as they tend to be much less gamey.
1kg coarsely minced venison
Vegetable oil for frying
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, cut into small, roughly ½cm dice
2 large carrots, peeled and
cut into roughly ½cm dice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1tsp chopped thyme leaves
1tbsp tomato purée
1 litre hot beef stock
1tbsp Worcester sauce
2 glasses of red wine
2 servings of firm mashed potato
200g parsnips, peeled, trimmed and roughly chopped
Season the minced venison with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat some of the vegetable oil in a heavy-based frying pan until it’s almost smoking, and cook the meat in small quantities for a few minutes, turning it with a wooden spoon, then drain it in a colander to remove any fat.
Meanwhile, in a thick-bottomed saucepan, heat more vegetable oil and gently cook the onion, celery, carrots, garlic and thyme for 2–3 minutes, stirring every so often until they’ve softened. Add the meat, dust it with the flour, and add the tomato purée. Continue stirring on a low heat for a few minutes.
Slowly add the red wine, Wor-cester sauce and the hot beef stock, bring to the boil and simmer for about one hour, until the liquid has thickened and the meat is tender. Remove from the heat, check the seasoning, and leave it to cool. Meanwhile, cook the parsnips in boiling salted water for about 10–12 minutes, until they’re soft. Drain into a colander, then return to the pan on a low heat for a minute or so to evaporate any excess water. Purée them in a food processor or mash them smoothly with a potato masher and mix them with the mashed potato.
Preheat the oven to 200˚C/gas mark 6. To assemble the pie, put the meat into a large serving dish, or individual dishes, and top it with the potato mixture, using a piping bag or with the help of a fork. Bake for 35–40 minutes until the topping is golden.
Serve with sprout tops, winter greens or root vegetables.