A very autumnal recipe, this dish makes the most of both the venison and the wild mushroom seasons, as well as some juicy and tart autumn berries to cut through the richness of the pastry. This is real puff pastry – don’t be scared of it; it’s a lot easier to do than people make out and a good stress buster then it comes to beating up the butter! It is noisy, however. I don’t suggest following my example of bashing the rock-hard butter into a slab at 1am as I found myself having to do the night before the Autumnal Mushroom Feast Supper Club. Not a way to make friends with your new neighbours…
Anyway, any wild mushrooms work in this, but I do recommend getting your hands on some porcini if you can, as they go really well with the whiskey. If you have to use cultivated mushrooms, then add a tsp of olive oil and 1 clove of crushed garlic to the pan before you cook the mushrooms to add a bit more flavour.
This recipe feels like a great achievement when you get it on the plate and your homemade puffy pastry gets cuts into. You can prepare the pastry the day before to make the recipe less engrossing on the dinner party night and there’s both vegetarian and gluten-free variations at the end of the recipe. Happy cooking!
Venison and wild mushroom parcels
- 200g strong flour or plain flour, plus extra flour for dusting
- 150g chilled unsalted butter
- 400g venison haunch, cut into 8 x 50g chunks, at room temperature
- 300g wild mushrooms – I used trompette, pied de mouton, girolles and porcini
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 15ml whiskey (a soft one, rather than peaty)
- 1 tbsp pink peppercorns, ground
- 300g fresh flat-leaf parsley and wasabi rocket
- sea salt and black pepper
Place the flour in a large bowl then add 140ml iced cold water flour and add a pinch of salt. Mix until the mixture is a dry dough. On a work surface lightly dusted with flour, and knead for 1 minute, then roll into a square with a rolling pin.
On a separate work surface, place a sheet of baking paper with the butter on top of it. Cover with another piece of baking paper, then beat with the rolling pin until you roughly have a flat square.
Remove the baking paper and place the butter in the middle of the pastry square, then turn it 45 degrees. Fold the pastry corners over the butter to meet in the middle, then roll the pastry and butter parcel into a rectangle. Fold a third over to the middle of the remaining rectangle and fold the remaining side over the top. Turn so the fold is facing you and roll into a rectangle again. Repeat the folding motion twice and then wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes. After chilling, repeat the rectangle rolling and folding over twice and then wrap and chill for 30 minutes or overnight if you want to prepare ahead.
Heat a non-stick saucepan and seal all the pieces of meat by cooking them for 1 minute on each of their sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside to cool. Rip or cut up the mushrooms into small pieces or slices and add them to the hot pan. Dry fry, stirring for 2 minutes, then add the lemon juice and whiskey. Season with half of the pink peppercorns, pepper and salt, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 2 minutes. Chop a tablespoon’s worth of the parsley and add it to the mushrooms. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas 7. On a lightly floured surface, cut the pastry into eight equal sized blocks. Taking one pastry block, roll out into a circle twice the size of the venison chunk. Place a teaspoon of the mushrooms in the middle of the pastry and place one of the venison chunks on top of it. Pop another couple of teaspoons of mushrooms on top, then fold the pastry up to the middle, bunching at the top and pressing together to make a parcel. Repeat to make eight parcels all together. Line the tray with baking paper and transfer the parcels onto it. Bake for 7-9 mins until the pastry is golden and flaky. Keep close to the oven and watch the colour of the pastry, as this all happens very quickly!
Serve with a salad of flat-leaf parsley, wasabi rocket and blackberries. Squeeze a few of the blackberries over the salad and sprinkle with the remaining pink peppercorns, the lemon zest and some black pepper, to serve.
This is an easy one to do a vegetarian option with. Clearly, you leave the venison out, but you can make more of the mushroom mixture to replace it. I added around 60g of mushroom extra to the filling, and just encased it in the pastry as I did the meat. It’s a good idea to make your vegetarian ones first so you don’t get them anywhere near the meat and cook them on a separate tray (and first and separately, if time allows – you can keep them warm with tin foil). Cook for 7-10 mins until the pastry is golden and puffy.
At the autumn supper club, one of the diners needed wheat and gluten free food, so instead of devising something else, I used a quickly blanched (5 mins covered in boiling water) sweetheart cabbage leaf, and wrapped it in a parcel, keeping it together with a weaved in cocktail stick. This also had go on a separate tray to the pastry parcels, and took 7-10 mins.