James St Cookery School: Game pie and chicken and leek pie

Niall McKenna's game pie
Niall McKenna

I CAN'T be the only one who noticed a drop in the temperature this week. Beautiful blue skies and the crunch of leaves underfoot still don't take away from the fact we've had to bundle up with jumpers and scarves we haven't seen in months.

With the changing of the seasons comes a change in our eating habits and what we want to eat when we get home. The darkness and the cold means we all prefer a warming, hearty evening meal; both of this week's recipes tick that box perfectly and are so easy to prepare.


(Serves 4)

1kg of mixed pheasant, pigeon, rabbit and venison, skin off and deboned

2 glasses red wine

2 carrots peeled, chopped

1 onion peeled, chopped

1 tsp tomato puree

1 garlic clove, chopped

4 juniper berries, crushed

1 bay leaf

1 tblsp thyme, leaves picked

2 tblsp rapeseed oil

1 litre beef stock

3 tblsp plain flour

25g butter

1 egg

300-350g puff pastry

Salt and pepper

Marinade the game in a bowl with the red wine, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and juniper berries covered in cling film and place in fridge for up to two days beforehand. Once marinated, drain off and keep the marinade to the side. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Dust the meat lightly with seasoned flour and fry off, removing from pan once browned.

Heat the butter and fry off onion until soft, add carrot and remaining flour, tomato puree and stir for one minute. Stir in the marinade, then the stock and bring to the boil, adding the meat and simmer for two hours until the meat is tender. The sauce should have a thick consistency and the meat should be braised.

Once cool transfer to a pie dish discarding the bay leaf. Roll out your puff pastry on a floured surface and cover the pie dish, nipping in at side to form a seal. Brush lightly with beaten egg and cut a small slit in the centre to let steam escape. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 30minutes or until skin is golden and crisp.


(Serves 4)

For the shortcrust pastry

300g plain flour

125g butter (cold and chopped into cubes)

2-3 tbsp cold water

1 egg


For the sauce:

30g butter

30g flour

500ml milk

3 tbsp double cream

2 tsp mustard, we use Dijon

100ml chicken stock

For the filling:

10 chicken thighs, de-boned and diced

2 leeks, chopped

30g butter

70g streaky bacon, diced

1 bunch of fresh tarragon

Salt and pepper

Make the pastry by sieving the flour and a pinch of salt into a mixing bowl. Add in ¾ of the butter cubes and make into a crumb mix by rubbing the butter with the flour using your fingers.

Add a tablespoon of cold water and bring mix together to a dough. Using your hands and one of two more tablespoons of water, bring the mix together and place on a floured surface. Knead until you have a perfect dough, wrap in cling film and place in fridge for at least 20 minutes. Take pastry out of fridge and allow to come back to room temperature before you need to use it.

Make the white sauce by melting the butter in a pot over a gentle heat; then add the flour and stir vigorously. Add the milk a little at a time. Add the cream, chicken stock and mustard and let the sauce thicken on a low heat, still stirring.

Pre heat the oven to 190C and get an oven-proof dish, placing the chicken and leeks on the bottom, and cover with sliced tarragon leaves. Pour over the white sauce and season with salt and pepper.

For the topping, flour a clean surface and start rolling out your pastry until it is the size to cover your pie dish, ensuring that it will be big enough to cover. Trim the edges and seal them with either water or a beaten egg. Crimp the edges and make a hole in the centre to allow steam to escape. Brush with egg to ensure your pie gets a golden glow. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes.

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