Venison and mushroom pies – or pithiviers
Filled with a creamy mix of mushrooms and delicate meat, pithiviers are upside-down pies, not dissimilar to a Wellington, says Rose Prince. Serves 3 to 4
Our Christmas this year will be select and grown-up — that is, without small children. So we rise late, make cocktails and toast, not having to prepare a giant roast. We might have some canapés, then bake these pre-prepared pies filled with a creamy mix of mushrooms and delicate venison fillet. Pithiviers resemble a sort of upside-down pie, not dissimilar to a Wellington but very decorative. They need a little patience to make, but can be prepared the previous day, refrigerated and then baked.
Venison and mushroom pies
- Prep time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- Cooking time: 20 minutes
- 15g dried wild mushrooms (morel, porcini)
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 banana shallots, very finely chopped
- 4 large king oyster mushrooms, chopped into 1cm dice
- 4 tbsp marsala
- 2 tbsp double cream
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp duck fat
- 400g venison fillet (either large medallions or one fillet, cut in two)
- 2 packs all-butter puff pastry
- 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tbsp water and a pinch of salt, to glaze
For the juice:
- 2 tbsp marsala
- 100ml meat stock (see our recipe for game stock here)
- Pour 200ml of boiling water into a bowl and add the dried mushrooms. Leave to soak for 20 minutes. Melt the butter in a sauté pan, add the shallots and cook over a low heat until they are golden. Add the king oyster mushrooms and cook until soft — they will release a little liquid, which will mostly evaporate.
- Strain the dried wild mushrooms, discarding the liquid, and squeeze any excess water out of them. Chop them and add to the pan. Add the marsala and turn up the heat. Cook, stirring, until all the liquor evaporates. Stir in the cream, season to taste, and cook for 30 seconds more. Remove from the heat and set to one side.
- Heat the duck fat in a heavy-based frying pan until it begins to smoke. Sear the venison fillets very briefly on all sides and immediately remove them. Set aside to cool. Make a little extra juice for serving, adding the stock and marsala to the meat pan and reducing by boiling down to one-third. Set aside to reheat for serving.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Roll the pastry into rectangles, 3mm thick — you will have quite a bit of excess. Cut each piece into two, so you have four rectangles. Lay two of the pieces on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Spoon one quarter of the mushroom mixture in the centre of each, spreading it to an area that will accommodate the fillet — about 8cm by 15cm.
- Place a piece of venison fillet on each — or two pieces if you used medallions, as I did. Spoon the remaining mushroom mixture on to each of the pies, pressing it down gently. If the mixture spills on to the surrounding pastry, brush it off with a spatula and add to the heap on top of the fillets. Brush the area around the mushroom and venison heap with water.
- Next, lay another piece of pastry over each, very gently bringing it down around the pie contents, pressing around the edges, to make a dome. Leaving a 2cm rim of pastry, cut around the edge of the pithivier and repeat with the second one.
- Brush both with beaten egg. Very lightly — so as not to pierce the pastry — score the pies with light cuts from top to bottom (see image). Finally, cut a little central hole in the top. At this point you can refrigerate the pithiviers, ready to bake the following day.
- Bake for 20 minutes until beautifully golden, then remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Reheat the juice and strain into a gravy jug, ready to serve. Slice each pithivier into four with a very sharp carving knife, once you have taken them to the table in all their glory. Serve the venison and mushroom pies with a creamy celeriac purée, perhaps some braised red cabbage or steamed kale.