I often make a big raised pie for Christmas, usually following a Glynn Christian recipe. He did two Sainsbury's books, Pies, Pates and Terrines is one, and there's a Christmas one as well. There's a very good recipe for Pheasant and Caramelised Chestnut Pie in the Christmas one, but this year I started out with the Pheasant, Port and Walnut one from the PPT book. Now there were some problems with this, number one was that this pie will last through until Hogswatch and we've got a non-nut person coming. Number two was that when I went to get the main ingredients, there was no pheasant to be had, not even for ready money. I bought two wood pigeons instead, but before I got around to making the pie, I found a pack of pheasant thigh fillets and a pack of game casserole meat (all birds, no venison), and I used that instead. So, this is what I actually did, as opposed to what the recipe said.
Cut a pack of pheasant meat (thighs in this case, but breast would be good) into smallish strips and marinate in a good sprinkling of port for about half an hour. Preheat oven to Gas Mark 6.
Mince a pack of game bird meat with about 4 oz of streaky bacon, half a bunch of lemon thyme leaves, a teaspoon of dried thyme and a goodly amount of fresh ground allspice.
Mix with 1 lb minced pork and 1 lb minced veal, some more port to dampen it, and probably some salt.
Make a hot water pastry by boiling half a pint of water with half a pound of lard and a bit of salt. Pour into a well in 24 oz sifted plain flour. Mix with a knife until it comes together and is just cool enough to handle, knead it quickly. Take three-quarters of it, leave the rest in the bowl and cover it to keep it warm.
Use the big lump of pastry to line a 9" deep cake tin with a removable bottom. You don't need to roll it out, treat it like PlayDoh. Just work fast so it doesn't seize up, and make sure to get your knuckles well into the bottom around the sides so you don't get a huge wodge of pastry. And no holes! Get it as far up the sides as you can, with a little overhang if poss.
Put half the minced meat mix in the pastry case. Top with a couple of handfuls of dried blueberries, layer in the pheasant meat chunks and dribble the port on top. Cover with the rest of the mince.
Take the smaller lump of pastry and pat it about in your hands into a rough circle (like the pizza guys do). Lay it on top of the pie and push it around until you have a sealed lid. Crimp it well with the overhang from the pastry lining, to make sure you don't get cracks. Mark a cross with a sharp knife in the middle of the top, and fold the pastry corners back in little triangles, to expose the centre of the pie in about a 2" circle. Put the tin on a baking tray.
Bake at Gas Mark 6 for half an hour, then Gas Mark 3 for 2 and a half hours. After an hour at the lower temperature, brush the top with beaten egg to glaze it.
The next day when it is cool, run a sharp knife gently just under the pastry around the central hole, to loosen any stuck bits and make a clear entrance to the pie.
Soak 4 leaves of gelatine in a few spoonsful of cold water. When it is soft, put into a measuring jug and add about 4 fl oz boiling water, and some chicken stock concentrate. Stir well to dissolve, and make up to 12 fl oz in total with a mixture of port and boiling water, depending on how much port you have. I used mostly port …
Pour the jelly slowly but surely into the pie through the hole at the top. This pie sucked in all of it instantly, I've had ones in the past that needed to settle a bit between pourings.
So I might plump up some dried blueberries in port, and fill the hole at the top with them tossed in some thicker jelly, when it finally comes to serve it.
Wrap the whole thing up in foil and put in the fridge for up to a week to mature before taking out of the tin and slicing. (If you need the tin for something else in the meantime, you can take it out of the tin once the jelly is well set, and wrap it up again.)
I've got a nasty feeling this one is going to be quite dry, with not enough fat in the meat and the amount of jelly it took (sign of shrinkage, maybe?). We shall see …