Badger Poacher’s Choice & Venison Aussie-style Meat Pie

PieI’ve cooked with the Badger Poacher’s Choice before, amusing myself by combining it with pheasant in the Poacher’s Pheasant Stew. Pheasant is a bird much admired in the recipes of the Poacher’s Cookbook. In a similar “humourous” vein venison becomes a natural partner to the beer as well. I’m easily amused I suppose. To add my own twist to an idea that is certainly unlikely to be a new one I’m going to combine the ingredients and present them Aussie style, replicating – as best I can – the classic Australian bakery “meat pie“. The “meat” in a “meat pie” is infamously never specified; with the joke being “there aren’t many stray cats in a town with a good bakery”. In reality beef is the typical “meat” in question, although I don’t see why it shouldn’t be kangaroo… and if kangaroo then why not venison?

For reference here’s some photos I found of what look to me like the archetypal “Aussie Meat Pie”!

Four'n Twenty PieSquare PiePie Cross-Section Detail

I did a fair bit of research into the creating of proper bakery meat pies, it turns out to be hard to pin down with most recipes more “homey” than “bakery”. I even asked my mum, who did some time in a bakery long ago when between-restaurants. Mum sent me some recommendations…

I am no pie cook but if I were to cook one at home I definitely wouldn’t use mince unless you mince some chuck or gravy beef yourself as the shop mince is definitely made from topside or similar and generally tough and inedible unless you get a good ‘fatty’ mix, you might have a good butcher! Otherwise use some well aged chuck (my preference) and dice it up with all the connective tissue and fatty bits intact. Make a really long slow cook casserole, I would add some roots and some good stock and brown the meat in seasoned flour. You could make a bit of a carbonnade but it needs to end up dark, caramelized and not too runny for pie. Pastry would be shortcrust on the bottom if you wish or no bottom and just a good lard pastry on top.

Since I’m using venison rather than beef I’ll coarsely mince it but add a bit of pork belly to increase the fat ratio – venison is a very lean meat. I’ve added a little veg to round it out, but it is meant to be a “meat pie” so I’ve kept veg to a minimum. The Poacher’s Choice is a rich and licorice-forward beer – which should complement the flavours from the fennel bulb and parsnip. Finally, I’d normally have a 10x reduced cubes of stock in the freezer but I’m all out at the moment – so rather than 50ml super-reduced real beef stock I’ve used a commercial stock cube… either would do, or use a normal beef-stock instead of the top-up water.

Filling Ingredients

Filling Ingredients

Filling Ingredients

  • 1tbsp cooking oil
  • 500g coarse-ground venison
    • I minced my own using a 5mm plate, a good butcher should be happy to do this for you.
  • 200g coarse-ground pork belly
    • As above I ground my own – do remove the skin though, I find it doesn’t go though a mincer very well. You can put the skin in, the slow-cook will make it completely tender – but fine-chop it by hand similar to the veg.
  • 50g fine-diced onion (~2mm dice)

    Chopped Veg

    Chopped Veg

  • 50g fine-diced fennel bulb (~2mm dice)
  • 50g fine-diced parsnip (~2mm dice)
  • 2tbsp (15g) plain flour
  • 1 beef stock cube (Or powder, good for approx half a litre reconstituted stock)
  • ½tsp fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
    • Almost every recipe I found for “Aussie meat pie” included Worcestershire Sauce, so here it is. Many included Vegemite too… but I don’t keep any around, can’t stand the stuff. (I did consider Promite… but no, it’s too precious to put in pie!)
  • 500ml (1  bottle) Badger Poacher’s Choice
    • Or rich ale of your choice – the Poacher’s Choice is described as “a smooth, dark ale enhanced by a touch of liquorice for spicy sweetness and damson for a soft, subtly fruity taste”.
  • 200ml water (or just enough to just-submerge the meat)

Grinding Meat

Ground Meat

Filling Method
The filling is basically a low-and-slow stew but made with ground rather than cubed meat – sort of like a good bolognese. First heat the cooking oil in an oven-proof pot/dish/casserole and thoroughly brown the ground meat. Add the diced vegetables and fry off for a couple of minutes before sprinkling in the plain flour and mixing in a little at a time until evenly distributed. Crumble in the stock cube, add the black pepper, Wostershire sauce, and pour in the bottle of beer. Finally add just enough water to bring the liquid level up to the meat level. Bring to a mere simmer, pop a cartouche of baking paper over the mix, and then with the lid on the pot put the whole thing in the oven at 120°C for about 5 hours.

Brown Meat


Add Veg/etc

Add veg

Add liquids

Add liquid



After this time the meat should be tender and the gravy barely present. A taste of the meat proves it a little dry. But take it out of the oven and give it time… after a day in the fridge the meat content has moistened up.

Pastry Ingredients
Mum pointed me to the lard pastry in the Aussie cooking bible “The Cook’s Companion“, which she gave me a copy of many years ago. Stephanie Alexander says of this pastry: “This traditional pastry is from the north of England. It is very flexible and rather biscuit-like when cooked.” I’m not sure how specifically northern lard pastry is, but the description in general seems fit for an all-round pastry for a pie. So I’m using it for the top and the bottom. Many online recipes for “Aussie meat pies” use a puff for the top… which isn’t quite right, but it ought to be something a little flaky so perhaps a rough-puff would be more authentic.

  • 200g Plain White Flour
  • 200g Self Raising White Flour
  • ½tsp salt
  • 200g Lard (“room temp”)
  • 180ml (approx) cold water
Lard, Salt, Flour

Lard, Salt, Flour


“Bread crumbs”


With water



Rub together, or food-process, all ingredients except the water and form into a breadcrumb-like consistency. Then slowly combine in water to form a soft dough. You likely will not need all 180ml of water – I only needed about 150ml. Wrap the dough in some cling-film and pop in the fridge until needed, giving it at least 20 minutes.


Making Pies

A proper meat-pie should be single-serve sized but at least 10cm in diameter – they can be circular, oval, or even a round-cornered quadrilateral. A typical on-the-foot Aussie bakery lunch would be a pie and a “pusscake” (something sweet with custard in it – I’ll never forget being sent out for “pusscakes” by a paver I was labouring for one teenage summer, it was a vocabulary-expanding job). The non-sweet-toothed may opt for a second pie, or a sausage roll or pasty.

Bottom Crust

Bottom Crust

Filling In

Filling In

Top On

Top On

Preheat an oven to 200°C. Roll sufficient dough for bases and top out to a thickness of 1.5 to 2mm. Line pie trays, fill level with pie filling, seal top on with a little eggwash… fancy crimping is not typical, a back of a fork is over-doing it even. Lightly brush the top with eggwash for that shiny-golden effect. Appropriate sized & not-overfilled pies do not really need slits in top. Pop into the oven and bake for about 30 minutes… they’re done when golden brown and piping hot all the way through. Pies can be kept warm in the oven, but are best enjoyed right away. If you’re using circular pie dishes a great test is: it is done when golden on top and you can spin the pie in the dish!


That’s a bonza pie mate!

I’ve almost nailed it. The filling is inauthentically generous on the meat, a typical Aussie bakery pie has more thick gravy and less actual meat. This could probably be achieved by using a full 500ml of beef stock instead of the water & doubling the amount of flour – or post-thickening with cornflour. The crust is the main problem. It is good in that holds the pie together – I’ve made a pie that can be eaten in a hand. But it is just a little too brittle. As I got to the end of my pie it started to fall apart. Perhaps the secret is to pop some eggwhite in the dough instead of water. The top of the pie looks fantastic – but it isn’t quite authentic either, it lacks “flakiness” and perhaps I should have used a rough-puff. Finally, on the dimensions front it is just a little deeper than it should be in my opinion.

Pie in handBitten PieMultiply Bitten PiePie Collapse Imminent!

Authenticity aside… it’s a pretty good first attempt & a damn fine pie. It is very rich, you certainly don’t want it to be any larger than it is. The Poacher’s Choice flavour comes through but doesn’t dominate and the meat has resistance but is not chewy or dry. Traditionally a Aussie meat pie is enjoyed with plenty of dead horse – but I’m enjoying mine with a slathering of my home-made oaky-beer chilli sauce!

Pie & A Pint

Pie & A Pint

[UPDATE] Aussie Bottom Crust
After some research I’ve got a recipe for the bottom-crust that does the job. It’s based on this information here: Villa Tempest: On Traditional Australian Pie Base

I’m using the 3:2:1 flour:shortening:liquid ratio, specifically: ingredients all at room temperature (~20°C – a bit of a struggle in British winter!):

  • 2 eggs (120g)
  • 240g butter
  • 360g flour

Method: weigh eggs into a food processor (with metal or, preferably, plastic blade attachment) and then add twice their weight in butter. It is important that this is done at “room temperature”. Turn the food processor on and blitz eggs and butter for 30 seconds to loosely combine. Add a third of the flour (120g) and then blitz this for at least 5 minutes until a smooth and even textured paste is formed. While the processor is running gradually add the remaining flour – the dough should form into a ball in your food processor.

Wrap flattened ball of dough in cling-film and pop into the fridge for a couple of hours, or longer – until required.

When the dough is required remove from fridge, cut off just enough to make a batch of pies, and pop remaining dough back in fridge until you need it. Initially this dough will be very solid – but it should be rollable, if not it might need 30 minutes to warm up. Roll dough out to 1mm to 1.5mm thickness on a cool floured surface. Let rolled out dough rest for a couple of minutes and then use it to line the tins… recipe then continues as above. Top crust is still the lardy one above, but I think a rough-puff might be better. (That’ll be the next update!)

UPDATE: Improved Bottom Crust

UPDATE: Improved Bottom Crust

I was able to eat this whole pie and the improved bottom crust didn’t split or break at all.

3 Good Things: Apple, Venison, Bacon

This recipe has been devised in response to Hugh’s “Three Good Things” challenge. I am, of course, endeavouring to add beer as a sneaky fourth “good thing”. I’m adding it as a subtle addition — much the way the chefs in the TV episodes will gladly include brilliant oils, vinegars, stocks, and herbs without giving them a headline credit.

Apple and bacon stuffed venison haunch roast

I recently found myself with a whole fallow deer carcass so I have a “glut” of venison at the moment. I figured apple + venison, a rich game meat and sweet apple… seems a pretty classic match. Amongst all the various cuts are a couple of chunky roasting muscles from each haunch (the “thick flank” I believe), this recipe makes use of one of these — it weighs in at about 850g.

I uhmmed and ahhed a lot about the third ingredient. Of all the extra bits I’d put with this what would be the natural one to highlight? Which one will shine the brightest? It became a toss–up between sage and bacon, and I settled on the bacon — adding extra punch by picking smoked bacon! Apples and pork, apples and bacon. Classic!

I’ve chosen to use Russet apples for their firm texture and slightly nutty savoury flavour. As luck would have it the day before the “apple challenge” was announced we’d picked up one of each variety of apple available at our local farmshop. We tasted all of these with some cheese, apple slices make a great alternative to crackers! So we’d got a little bit of prior research in to make an informed decision about the choice of apple. The farmshop, Willingham’s Bushel Box, is at the farm where the apples are grown — so they’re supremely local.

So, I present: Apple and bacon stuffed venison haunch joint, with apple gravy, and apple salad.



  • 150g sausage meat
  • 2 rashers smoked streaky bacon — roughly chopped
  • 1 small Russet apple — 5mm dice
  • sprig of roasmary
  • sprig of sage
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 6 juniper berries
  • 3 tbsp of a rich red ale
    • I’ve used Hardknott Infra Red, a 6% and particularly hoppy red ale from Cumbria and a long–time favourite beer of mine.

Crush up all the herbs and garlic in a pestle and mortar, loosen up with a little of the beer. With remaining beer rinse the pestle out into a bowl and add the sausage meat, diced apple, and diced bacon. Thoroughly combined, using hands of course, and ideally set aside for a while in the fridge so the flavours can develop.


  • Stuffing mix above
  • Venison “thick flank” — about 850g, or similar roasting cut
  • 5 or 6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
  • 4 small Russet apples — quartered, unpeeled
  • 6 fat garlic cloves
  • Barding fat — pork back fat is the classic
  • 250ml of the same red ale as used in the stuffing
  • Some plain cotton string
  • A large sprig of sage

Preheat oven to 220°C — or higher. (As I use very a heavy cast iron baking dish I pop that that in now too. My current oven is infuriatingly small, sticking a few kg of cold iron in it really sets the temperature back so I heat the pan up with the oven.)

Turn the joint of venison “ugly side up” and open it out along the grain of the meat. This is a combination of releasing the natural seams of the muscle and cutting into muscle butterfly–style. (I actually cut about 100g of meat out too to increase the size of the cavity. The offcuts are not wasted, they make a nice pre–dinner snack — dice it, mix it with left over stuffing: fry up as little patties!)

Line the middle of the opened out joint with about a strip of thinly sliced Russet apple rounds. Right down the middle lay two strips of streaky bacon, so they half lie out of the meat, put a “sausage” of just enough stuffing down the middle so that you can still comfortably wrap the meat around the lot (left over stuffing is expected — fry it up ad enjoy!) Wrap the stuffing by bringing the bacon up and over it. Lay the roast on 3 or 4 lengths of streaky bacon, which have in turn been laid on lengths of string of a suitable length to tie up the roast. It is difficult putting this to words, and it sounds more fiddly than it is by far! See the photos to get the idea:

Stuffed Roast - Step 1

Stuffed Roast - Step 2

Stuffed Roast - Step 3

Stuffed Roast - Step 4

Spread a bit of oil in the bottom of your roasting dish and place the roast into it bacon–side–up. Surround by wedges from 3 or 4 Russet apples, and the cloves of garlic which can just go in whole and unpeeled.

Ready To Roast!

Into the oven for a sizzle! Do this until the outside has browned a little — 20 minutes in my case. Then reduce the heat to 180°C, baste with 3/4 of the beer, place the barding fat on top…

Barding time.

…and continue to roast until you reach an internal temperature of around 65°C (40 more minutes in my case). Remove from the oven and set the roast aside on a warm plate and cover with some tinfoil while it rests.

Now for the gravy...

Now the apple gravy! This couldn’t be simpler. Carefully pour as much of the fat out of the roasting tin as you can, this can be discarded (or put to another use if you’re really thrifty). Remove everything remaining from the pan and place it into a food mill. Use the remaining beer to wash all you can out of the pan too. Mill it. Done! It should be a good thick consistency and beautiful rich, roasty, caramelised, beery, apple flavour. (It took quite some effort to stop myself just standing there eating this with a spoon!)



  • 2 small Russet apples — medium dice
  • Half a medium brown onion — fine dice
  • 1 tbsp Rapeseed oil
  • 1 tbsp Cider vinegar
  • Pepper/Salt
  • 3 or 4 fresh sage leaves — finely shredded

This piquant little apple salad cuts through the other rich roasty flavours in the plate — giving the whole meal a nice crisp lift. Simply toss it all together, adding pepper & salt to taste.


Slice roast, place on warmed plate, apply gravy, add a pile of fresh apple salad. Enjoy! With a glass of Hardknott’s excellent Infra Red… duh :)


Bambi, Thumper, & Moor “Old Freddy Walker” Mince Pies

From time to time I hear it said that Christmas mince pies used to include real mince, not purely a sickly-sweet mixture of dried fruit. Wikipedia documents the use of meat in the Christmas mince pie, so it must be true. There are a few “real mince mince pie” recipes floating around; one even makes an appearance in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “The River Cottage Year“. My recipe here is based on the one from Hugh’s book, the main difference being the use of game meats instead of beef. This is the second festive season that I’ve made these mince pies, they have gone down very well at home, in the local pub, and in the office (not poisoned anyone yet!)

First: get hold of some Bambi, this shouldn’t be difficult as many supermarkets in the UK sell venison. However It may be difficult to get minced venison; ideally try to buy venison from a good butcher and ask them to mince it. I have a mincer and minced some stewing venison that I picked up in the supermarket. If mincing at home I would recommend buying venison fillets or steaks, as trimming unwanted sinew from diced meat is a pain in the backside. As much sinew as possible should be trimmed off prior to mincing, otherwise there will be chewy gristly bits in the mince pies. A fine mince is desirable, to achieve this I pushed it through a coarse plate and then my finest plate (about 4mm). This recipe includes minced Thumper (rabbit) because I didn’t quite have enough Bambi to make up the weight I wanted. (If you’re dull you could just use minced lamb or beef instead of venison and bunny, I’m thinking of trying minced 50/50 pheasant and bunny next year.)

Another difference this year is that I’ve added Moor’s Old Freddy Walker old ale to the mix instead of brandy. This is part of a recent effort on my part to cook using beer more often. It has worked out fine in this case, though I’m not sure anyone could tell that there is beer in this. Next time I might try using something like BrewDog’s Paradox Smokehead – I think that would make a mince pie that’d go down very well with a wee dram of Islay whisky.

Ingredients, prepared

Ingredients, prepared

The ingredients I used are:

  • 300g minced venison (lamb or beef will do instead of venison and bunny)
  • 50g minced bunny
  • 150g grated beef suet (preferably home-processed, but “Atora” will do)
  • 150g currants
  • 150g raisins
  • 85g ground almond
  • 2 granny smith apples, peeled and fine-chopped
  • 8 dates, chopped to about currant-size pieces
  • 140g soft brown sugar
  • 40g stem ginger in syrup, fine-chopped
  • 25g …of the syrup from the above
  • 1 lemon – juice and zest
  • 3 lemons & granulated sugar – to make candied peel (or 75g of shop-bought candied peel)
  • ½tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½tsp ground ginger
  • ½tsp ground allspice
  • 200ml strong ale (Moor’s Old Freddy Walker)

The candied peel is the most complicated of the ingredients to prepare. I made my own because a friend at work is allergic to oranges and I couldn’t find any candied peel that didn’t contain orange peel. While it would be easier to use peel from the shop, I do think that home-made candied lemon peel is more tasty and lemony than the anything shop-bought. Brief instructions for candying peel can be found at the end of this entry.[1].

The method for making the mince couldn’t be simpler: put the lot into a bowl and mix thoroughly. Hugh’s recipe suggests the mix can be kept in jars in the larder for some time, but I haven’t tried this. I put mine in a sealed container in the fridge and let it sit for at least a week to mature, and for up to 3 weeks (just because it has never lasted longer than 3 weeks!)

Puff parcels

Un-traditional puff parcels

Next thing to do is to bake some mince pies! The photo above is of mince-pie parcels simply packaged in a folded-over piece of shop-bought puff-pastry, washed with a bit of beaten egg, and baked in a 200°C oven for about 20 minutes. I prefer a sweet shortcrust pastry however, which can be simply folded over like the puff version, or formed into little pasties, or used to make little pies in tins just like the shops sell. The little mince pies are a bit of a bother to put together, but they do look good. For the pies in the photo below I used a shortcrust recipe from the Jamie Oliver website and baking was as for the puff version but with 5 minutes at 200°C then 15 at 180°C.

Traditional tarts

Traditional tarts

Have a very meaty &amp beery (not too beery) Christmas! (Well, Xmas has been and gone for 2010 now – so I hope you had one.)

[1] Candied peel, briefly:

  1. 8th the lemons and peel out the flesh
  2. With a small sharp knife slice off the inner fibrous pith (about 1mm)
  3. Blanch in simmering water for 5 minutes
  4. Drain peel and return to saucepan peel in enough fresh water to cover to double-depth
  5. Add sugar, about 1.75 times the volume of water added
  6. Bring to simmering point and simmer until liquid is thick and syrupy, but before it browns
  7. Turn out on some foil and let cool before dicing