Vension, thyme and port lattice pie

Rich venison in port gravy is encased in buttery lattice pastry to create the ultimate winter pie – serve with potatoes and greens for a weekend treat


  • 1kg diced stewing venison (shoulder or leg)
  • olive oil, for frying
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • 2 onions, finely diced
  • 4 juniper berries
  • small bunch of thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 200ml ruby port
  • 300ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp redcurrant jelly
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 150g baby chestnut mushrooms, halved if large
  • cooked potatoes and buttered greens, to serve
  • 300g plain flour
  • 150g cold butter, cubed
  • 2 egg yolks, whisked with 2 tsp of water



    1. Pat the venison dry with kitchen paper and season well. Heat a splash of olive oil in a casserole over a medium-high heat. Fry the meat in batches for 5 mins until golden brown all over. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining meat.
    2. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Once all the meat has been browned and removed, add the celery and onion to the pan, reducing the heat to medium. Add a splash more oil if you need to and fry for 8-10 mins or until soft. Stir in the juniper, half the thyme sprigs and garlic. Fry for 1-2 mins or until fragrant. Stir in the flour until it is absorbed, then the port, deglazing the bottom of the pan and bubbling for a minute until thickened. Add the stock, redcurrant, balsamic and the browned venison. Bring to a gentle simmer, then put on the lid, transfer to the oven and cook for 2 hrs 30 mins-3 hrs or until the meat is very tender. You can also pressure cook for 1 hr or use a slow cooker for 6-8 hrs. Top up with a little water if you need to and stir a few times if cooking in the oven. Simmer on the hob for 5 mins after cooking if you need to reduce the gravy slightly – it should be thick, glossy and coat the meat.
    3. Fry the mushrooms in another frying pan with a little oil for 8-10 mins or until lightly browned and tender. Stir through the pie filling and fish out the woody thyme stalks and juniper if you can spot them. You can make the filling up to two days ahead or freeze in advance – it’s best to make the pie with a cold filling to give you more time to perfect the pastry.
    4. Rub together the flour, butter and a pinch of salt with your fingertips until it looks like breadcrumbs. And 2-3 tbsp of cold water to bring the dough together, then knead a few times on a worksurface until smooth. Wrap and chill for 30 mins or until ready to roll. Spoon the venison filling into a dish.
    5. Divide the dough into one-third and two-thirds pieces. Roll the larger piece out roughly in the shape of the pie dish, about £1 coin thickness. Use some of the egg wash to brush around the sides of the dish and lay the pastry over using the rolling pin or a floured baking sheet to help you. Press the edges to seal the pie and stop the pastry shrinking when cooked. Roll out the smaller ball of pastry to about 50p thickness. Use a lattice roller to indent the pastry all over.
    6. Brush the pie top with egg yolk wash and carefully lay the lattice over the top, opening it out slightly, leaving even gaps. Brush the lattice with more egg wash. While the egg wash is still a little tacky, add a thyme leaf to each gap in between the lattice pastry – a pair of chef’s tweezers will help you place them, or scatter liberally for a more rustic look. Chill for 20 mins until the pastry is firm.
    7. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Bake for 30-35 mins or until the top is golden brown and the filling is piping hot. Serve with potatoes and buttered greens.