The main indicator that the summer is officially over, for me, is the plethora of articles on autumnal foods that hit the newspapers. This has clearly been getting to a friend of ours, because at the wine dinner the other night he said that he wanted game. More than wanted it, he came fairly close to stamping his little foot and demanding it.
We'd said we'd cook for him last night, so I figured that it had to be game. And conveniently I had 2 packets of wood-pigeon breasts and a couple of packs of diced venison in the freezer, which all said "pie" to me. But not a cold, raised pie like I have done in the past. No, this time there had to be gravy.
So I sauteed some smoked lardons with a diced onion and added the diced venison and some soaked, sliced shiitake mushrooms. Then I stirred in a tablespoon of crushed juniper berries, added a good cupful of beef stock and about the same of red wine and let it simmer about half an hour. Then I added some little white button mushrooms and the pigeon breasts, halved, and let it cook a bit more.
I lifted the meat into a blind-baked shortcrust case, added some cornflour (let down in a little red wine) and cooked the juices down to a thick gravy. I didn't do much to season the juices until they were quite thick because I didn't want them to get too salty.
I poured the thick gravy over the meat and allowed it to cool for 10 minutes. Then topped it with a puffpastry lid, glazed it with beaten egg, then scooted over to our friend's place and put it in the oven.
His runner beans have been very productive this summer, so simply steamed runner beans were our accompaniment. And a really lovely 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon that has been travelling with Paul for a very long time now.
The meat was succulent and richly-flavoured. The shiitake mushrooms added an extra savoury note and it all went perfectly with the smooth, aged wine.
I'm really hoping for an Indian summer, but if this is what autumn is going to be like, it's not too bad.