Not many things will fill you with that “look-at-me-I-made-this-at-home” feeling like making a pie. From scratch. And, while we like the romanticism of rolling out wafer-thin layers of pastry, we also think there’s a time and a place where a shortcut is totally acceptable. Pre-made puff pastry is that time and place, people. NOBODY NEEDS TO MAKE THEIR OWN PUFF PASTRY. For this weekend’s project we’re encouraging you to try venison as a filling but, honestly, any braised meat would work. Beef shin, lamb shanks, chicken thighs. All of them are options. 
The surprising hero in our recipe is white pepper - it is such a forgotten ingredient but it really, really comes into its own when used with venison. 

Stuff you’ll need: 

1 kg deboned shoulder of hartebeest (or any venison), cut into cubes  
40g lard, or olive oil
2 x onions, finely chopped
1 x tablespoon plain flour, plus extra for pastry
1 x teaspoon hot English mustard powder
4 x carrots, finely chopped
500ml red wine
2 - 3 dates, pitted and chopped
1 x tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 x tablespoon nutmeg
1 x tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 x tablespoons ground white pepper
2 x sprigs rosemary, stripped
2 x sprigs thyme, stripped
Sea salt
Black pepper
250g puff pastry
1 x egg, beaten and folded into 2 x tablespoons milk 

What you’ll do: 

1. Preheat the oven to 180 Degrees Celsius. 
2. Heat the lard or oil in a large, deep pot and add the onions, frying them until they are soft and getting some colour. Turn off the heat and sift the flour and mustard powder into the pot. Stir to thicken.
3. Add the meat and carrots and stir into the onions. Pour in the wine, the dates, the vinegar, nutmeg, cumin, cinnamon, thyme, rosemary and pepper. Stir once more.
4. Cover the pot cook for 90 minutes. Remove and season with sea salt. 
5. Transfer the contents of the casserole to a suitable pie dish. Use a pie bird to position right in the middle of the mix, or place an espresso cup there. 
6. Crank the temperature of the oven up to 200 Degrees Celsius and roll your pastry out to a thickness that you’re comfortable with. 
7. Carefully lay it over your meat filling, dropping the lid over the edges slightly. Pinch the pastry together, moving around the dish. If you’ve used an espresso cup as your makeshift pie bird, pierce a hole able it. 
8. Brush the top of your pie with the beaten egg and milk. This is the time to fashion any poncy motif or to write a love note to your partner. Nothing says “I love you” like a heart-shaped pastry garnish. (Kidding. Plenty of things say it better but go for it anyway).
9. Cook for about 45 minutes, or until the pastry is that classic golden colour that everyone loves.
10. Remove and serve as is. Whole. With spoons. Steamed green vegetables would be good with this.