Category Archives: wild game

Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie or Happy British Pie Week

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Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie

It’s British Pie Week and I thought it would be only fitting to indulge ourselves in yet another pastry filled with a wonderful fusion of flavours. When people talk about “pies” here in England you never need to wonder if they mean “meat pies”, it’s assumed. The Brits eat fruit pies as well but the meat variety holds a special place in the nation’s hearts and stomachs. Works for me as I come from Russia, another pie loving nation. I didn’t need further convincing to embark on a pie making campaign. Earlier this week I blogged about Yellow Plum and Blueberry Galette and today I am sharing with you this completely unusual and utterly delicious Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie.

When I was growing up my mum used to make Rabbit and Sour Cream Stew. If you think of happy childhood memories it wasn’t one of them. My brother and I had very strong opinions about that dish and talks about the dislike for it provided for some quality bonding time between the siblings. I often wondered since then if I would think differently now that I am in possession of a very grown up taste. There are not too many foods I dislike provided they are cooked well. Alas, I had a few opportunities to test my theories. After all, where does one go to purchase a rabbit or a pheasant in North America? Now, England is a different story. Sometimes I feel like I am in a foodie heaven-so many things that I love are easily accessable and completely affordable! This was the case with rabbit and pheasant casserole mix I stumbled upon in one of the local shops. Although I had no idea what I was going to cook I knew I had to buy it.  Rabbit excited me but pheasant sent me over the top. If you are a book worm like me you’d probably also wondered what pheasants taste like after reading the descriptions of feasts in various books of old. How pleased was I when I spotted the design on one of my plates- the latest flea market find-  Asiatic Pheasants. Serendipity, indeed.
Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie
The recipe for this pie is a mixture of things-the memories of my mum’s stew, my usual meat pie recipe and also a bit of research. Without further ado let me introduce the final result.
Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie
Ingredients:

  • Rabbit meat (skinless and boneless)-150 gr
  • Pheasant meat (skinless and boneless)-150 gr
  • Chicken thighs (skinless and boneless)-300 gr
  • Onion-1 large
  • Garlic- 1 clove
  • Rosemary-2 sprigs
  • Flour- 1tbsp. heaped
  • White wine, vermouth or cider (optional)- a good splash
  • Chicken stock- 2 cups
  • Carrot- 1
  • Peas-1/2 cup
  • Potato- 1 medium
  • Pre-made pie crust – 500gr
  • Creme fraiche or sour cream- 2 tbsp.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Egg (beaten)-1Rabbit and Pheasant Pie

Method:

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan, dice the onion and gently cook it in a pan over low heat for 5-7 minutes without colouring it. Dice your rabbit, pheasant and chicken into 1” dice and add to the pan, brown the meat over medium heat, add rosemary and cook for 2 more minutes, then pour in the wine, let the alcohol burn off and then add your stock, bring to a boil and turn the heat down. Gently simmer the mixture for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more stock if a bit dry. At the end of the cooking time your meat should be very soft and the whole filling look like it’s swimming in gravy but not too soupy.

Adding vegetables is entirely your choice. I like a little bit of crunch in my pies provided by the veggies not the gristle :-). Slice the carrot and potato and add to the mixture, cook for 5-7 minutes, then add frozen peas. When I added my peas I realised it was the pea and corn mix, so that’s what the yellow flecks in the pictures are. Stir in your creme fraiche for the creamy consistency and cool your mixture so it doesn’t melt the pie crust when you pour it in. I am very impatient and often pay for it! Now is the time to preheat your oven to 200C/400F.

Roll out your pie crust to fit your pie plate making sure the bottom crust goes up the sides and hangs over the edges. Fill your pie with the meat mixture and cover it with the top crust. If you feel especially creative you can cut out rounds with a pastry/cookie cutter and assemble a pie topper out of them, overlapping them slightly and brushing each circle with an eggwash to make individual circles stick to each other and to give your pie an attractive shiny and golden finish. If you opt out for the traditional top crust don’t forget to make slits so the steam can escape. Bake at 200C/400F for 30 minutes until the pie is golden and the filling is bubbling.

Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie
Note: I would love to point out that this recipe will work brilliantly with just chicken. I realise that rabbit and pheasant are not too common but don’t discard a great pie recipe if you don’t feel adventurous enough to try them. Substitute and enjoy!

Reindeer and Butternut Squash Winter Stew or How to Survive a Snow Day in London

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Reindeer and Butternut Squash Winter Stew
It’s blistery cold here in London, it’s been snowing for the last 24 hours and many trains have been delayed or altogether canceled. The whole country is in the state of a national emergency judging by the frequent TV, radio and other media “sever weather” announcements. Every Facebook status update, Twitter feed and any conversation refers to this awful snowfall, yet when I look outside my window this is the picture I see.Snow Day in London
Yep, a light dusting of snow. Being a Russian Canadian I need to dig deep to find compassion or understanding for this hysteria. However I have to admit that although my husband and I have experienced much colder weather  in our days we found ourselves unprepared for how overwhelmingly ‘chilled to the bone’ this winter day feels! Right now London is wet, windy, snowy and grey and after a long way home the best remedy to combat this misery  is the comfort of a warm and homey stew brightened with orange chunks of butternut squash. If that still didn’t peak your interest I know the fact that it’s also made with a reindeer meat would!  You are probably wondering where in the world one would find reindeer meat (you can read my story here) but did you know that reindeer also live in North America under the name of caribou? I beg you not to discard this recipe if  reindeer meat is not stored in your freezer. Truth be told whether you use reindeer, caribou or plain beef this stew is a winner and your family will love you forever!

Ingredients:

  • Reindeer steaks-350 gr
  • Stewing beef-500 gr
  • Italian pancetta (cubed) or unsmoked bacon- 200gr
  • Onion- 2 medium
  • Carrots- 2 medium or 4-4 baby carrots (cubed)
  • Celery- 2 stalks
  • Butternut Squash- 1/2 of a medium (cubed)
  • Tomato paste-1 tbsp.
  • Red Wine-1 cup
  • Juniper Berries-3-4 (crushed to release flavour)
  • Thyme- leaved of 2-3 sprigs or 1 tsp of dried thyme
  • Flour- 1 tbsp
  • Garlic- 2 cloves
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350F/180C.

I like to cook my stews and stew-like dishes in a cast-iron pot. It cooks everything much fast due to the even heat distribution and a heavy lid that traps the heat and moisture producing magical results. If you can’t invest money in the most popular brand like LeCreuset, don’t despair there are other brands that are more affordable like Ikea(worldwide) or Sainbury’s for those living in the UK. I have both of those brands in different sizes and I prefer the Sainsbury’s brand as their pots are enameled and the Ikea ones aren’t.

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to your pot and cook your pancetta on medium-high heat until golden and most of the fat is melted away.

Pancetta

Cube the reindeer steaks and beef into 1″ cubes and add to the pot, sear the meat on each side for 3-5 min for extra flavour.

Reindeer Stew

Peel your onions and slice them, do the same with celery and cut the carrots in big chunks if using the whole ones or half the baby carrots. Add the vegetables, stir everything and cook for 10 min., adding thyme, minced garlic and crushed juniper berries. If you don’t know what juniper berries are look up what gin is made from!
Juniper Berries

Put your tomato paste in and sprinkle flour, give it another good stir to coat all the ingredients.

IMG_7359
Now pour in your wine and top it up with water so the vegetables are just covered, add your butternut squash, stir and add a pinch of both salt and pepper. The reason I add the squash at the end is because I don’t want it to overcook and turn mushy.

Butternut Squash Bring your stew to a boil, cover it with a lid and put it in the over for 2 hours, check on it occasionally making sure it’s not too dry, add more water if necessary.

At the end of 2 hours your meat should be incredibly tender and delicious. If your stew is too soupy, take the lid off and leave it in the oven for 20-30 min. longer. Serve it with crusty bread or over creamy mashed potatoes. Stay warm!!

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Venison Steak Diane with a Facelift – Dedicated to Hunters and Gatherers

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venison steak diane
Those of you who follow my blog know that I recently acquired a rather unusual selection of meats with some of the items being entirely new to me.  Although I’ve never cooked venison before I am not a complete wild game virgin. Brad and I spent our honeymoon in a cabin in the middle of nowhere in Northern Ontario that was  graciously offered to us by my parents -in-law’s friends. When we arrived there we discovered another present inside the cabin- a freezer stocked full of meat, venison and moose, perfectly suited to the surroundings. I had no idea all kinds of delicacies like steaks, pepperoni and sausages could be made out venison. I grew up in Russia and in a very urban setting, the wildest thing I’d eaten up to that point was a stewed rabbit!

I loved the taste of venison but didn’t have a slightest idea of how to cook it, so I approached this challenge with a lot of research. I poured over hundreds of recipes on the internet to find the perfect one and get inspired until I stumbled upon Venison Steak Diane on Honest Food website. I am not going to lie to you that the main draw for the recipe was the picture! I really hope you will feel the same about mine:-).

What was keeping me from starting immediately was the name. Steak Diane had a firmly planted association in my head with an old and tired recipe from the 50s that no one would get passionate about. However, that opinion quickly changed when I learned that the name for Steak Diane didn’t come from some old lady named Diane who invented the recipe in her 1950s kitchen but Roman mythology and one of their goddesses Diana, who was a huntress. The sauce itself originated in the turn of the 20th century France and was invented for venison, not beef. It’a classic for a reason! That convinced me to give it a try. That, and the short and simple ingredient list.

Ingredients:

steak ingredients

Venison steaks-400gr/1 lbs

Onion-1 small

Garlic-2 cloves

Worcestershire Sauce-1 tbsp.

Whole Grain Mustard with chilies (chilies optional)-1tbsp.

Tomato paste-1tbsp.

Butter-2 tbsp.

Double cream/heavy cream- 1/4 c.

Beef stock-2/3 c.

Brandy (or any white wine or whiskey you have on hand)-1/4 c.

Basil for garnish- 2-3 leaves sliced

Method:

Take your venison out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature for about 20-30 min. Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel. Melt the butter in the frying pan on medium heat and fry your steak until they develop a brown crust on both sides. It took me about 6-7 min. on one side and 3-4 on the other. They will be pleasantly browned on the outside but won’t cook all the way through provided your steaks are 1.25- 1.5 inches thick. Remove the steaks from pan and allow to rest on a plate, cover to keep warm.

steaks browned

While your steaks are frying, dice the onion quite finely and saute in the same pan for 2-3 min, then add minced garlic to it and continue sauteing while stirring constantly as garlic burns quickly and turns bitter for another 30 sec.

Add your brandy or whatever alcohol you are using and let it cook for 4-5 min so it’s reduced and the spoon leaves a trail on the pan when you stir. Brandy is not essential to this recipe but adds complexity to otherwise a very simple sauce. I usually never have brandy on hand but as you can see from my previous post I bought a bottle for my homemade eggnog which was another proof the recipe was meant to be!

Now add tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, beef stock, a pinch of salt and pepper to the sauce and cook it until thickened and looks like this…

sauce1

Take your sauce off the heat and wait a bit until the bubbles calm down. Now add cream to the sauce until it looks pretty. Yes, that’s exactly how I decide on the amounts of cream in everything-from my coffee to apparently sauces. I like this colour…

sauce2

Stir everything together to blend but don’t put in back on the heat or it might separate and although it will still taste just as great it won’t look nearly as beautiful as this…

steak diane whole

Are you hungry enough yet? You can serve your steaks whole or your can slice them in medallions.

steak sliced
I was quite pleased with the way it turned out but I was also a bit under the weather and too busy taking pictures capitalizing on a brief moment of sunshine streaming through my kitchen window that it didn’t even occur to me to taste the meat. It’s steak, right? I’ve had steak before. The reason I went for a small mouthful is to bring variety to my shots and OH MY GOODNESS. All of a sudden, I forgot that I was sick and not hungry! The meat was so tender and flavourfulI had to immediately call for Brad, the main taste tester. Big mistake. It was gone in seconds.

steak diane 2
steak diane 3
Venison Steak Diane
One last word about the garnish. Traditionally parsley is used to adorn Steak Diane. I didn’t have any. I have a basil plant growing on my window sill, so used basil. It was outstanding. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I love intentional substitutions and unintentional mistakes! Did you know that Worcestershire sauce was one of them? I love bold and creative people!

P.S. This recipe was adapted from the one here.

P.P.S. If you buy anything similar at a restaurant it would cost your at least £20!  It cost me £2 per person!!