Friday, 22 November 2013

Venison pithiviers and Christmas gift ideas

I thought I'd do a little round-up of Christmas present ideas, in case you are shopping for me. Or for somebody who shares my taste, I guess. And I thought I'd try to publish this early enough for it to be useable for Christmas 2013. Some of these are things I have spotted and thought "Oooh, I'd like that" and some are things that I've thought "Oooh, so-and-so would like that". If you are someone I buy gifts for, please do act surprised if you unwrap something you have seen mentioned here. I haven't mentioned cookbooks at all because a) there are so many on my wishlist that they need a list of their own and b) I have run out of space on the bookshelf.
"And then, of course, there are liqueur glasses, and crystallised fruits, and tapestry curtains, and heaps of other necessaries of life that make really sensible presents- -not to speak of luxuries, such as having one's bills paid, or getting something quite sweet in the way of jewellery. " Reginald on Christmas Presents, H.H Munro 1904

As a present for myself, I recently bought an irresistible nest of 9 snowflake-shaped cookie cutters. They were just so pretty, and the way they move when you rotate the box is kaleidoscopic. I'd imagine that pretty much everything I bake in the next month or so will have some sort of snow motif.

The first item to get an outing are these venison pithiviers, a very simple savoury pie. The traditional French pithivier has a sweet almond filling and a pattern of curved lines as decoration that sort of looks like a sun, so I thought a savoury winter-themed version would be nice. I made a very Christmassy sort of filling of venison studded with cranberries and porcini mushrooms plumped up in whisky, with some pistachios for colour and crunch and mustard and breadcrumbs to lighten and bind. I made four palm-sized pies with the largest of my snowflake cutters, but I think they would be a charming Christmas nibble made bite-sized.

Venison and cranberry pithiviers (makes 4 large, 12 bite-sized)

1tsp butter
1 shallot, finely minced
1tbs pistachios, chopped
1tbs dried cranberries
2tbs dried porcini mushrooms, broken into pieces
2tbs whisky (or brandy or sherry)
2tbs Dijon mustard
200g venison mince
2tbs dried breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
250g butter puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 180C.

Saute the shallot in the butter for a couple of minutes until translucent and allow to cool. Combine the cranberries and porcini mushrooms in a small bowl with the whisky and allow to plump up for 10 minutes. 

Break up the venison mince and combine with the cooled shallot, cranberries and mushrooms, mustard and breadcrumbs, mixing with your hands until thoroughly combined. Add the pistachios (chop them up if you are making bite-sized pies) and season with salt and pepper. Divide the filling mixture into 4 balls.

Roll the pastry out, a bit thicker than you normally would for a pie, and cut out 8 large snowflakes (or circles).

Put 4 snowflakes onto a baking parchment-lined baking tray and top with the balls of filling. Brush the exposed pastry and the venison filling with a bit of beaten egg. For the lids, pick up the remaining snowflakes and carefully stretch the middle bit over your knuckles so that the points of the snowflake aren't distorted but there is a sort of pouch to enclose the filling. It sounds more difficult than it is... but that is why you roll the pastry quite thickly. Place the lid over the filling and press firmly all around it to firstly exclude airbubbles and secondly seal the pastry top to the bottom.

Brush the tops with more beaten egg and, with the point of a knife, gently score through the eggwash in a snowflake pattern, trying not to go all the way through to the filling.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes. We had them with warmed-up leftover red cabbage and steamed tenderstem broccoli.


Blonde said...

They look so pretty! I might try this with a veggie-friendly version for our Xmas party...

Unknown said...

I was sure these were meatballs. Great recipe!

meg-made said...

Heck these look and sound amazing! I love venison and think they look so cute as snowflakes, how creative! I wish they made decent gluten free pastry and I'd be all over this!!!! Great gift list too!!! xx

Angie's Recipes said...

I don't eat venison, but I am sure other ground meat will work too. They look divine!

Gemma said...

Good Christmas list and good looking pithiviers! I'm going to start posting Christmas lists next week as I enjoyed the few I did last year so much!

leaf (the indolent cook) said...

Your pithiviers look so good! The mix of ingredients for the filling, in particular, sounds glorious.

The Cat's Mother said...

To quote Rachel in an episode of Friends: *I was thinking something from Crabtree & Evelyn*!

Alicia Foodycat said...

Blonde - they would be excellent with a veggie filling.

Elzbieta - not meatballs, no!

Meg - I have a packet of gluten-free pastry in the freezer (it was a substitute in my groceries a while ago) but now I am worried that it's really crap!

Angie - shame you don't eat venison! It's very healthy and sustainable and tastes like beef! But this filling would be excellent with pork mince too.

Gemma - I love your Christmas lists!

Leafy - the filling was really good. It'd be great as a sausage roll, too.

Mother - hmmm, that would be nice too!

Joanne said...

These are some great holiday gift ideas!! And your pithiviers are perfectly shaped!

Rosita Vargas said...

Una idea brillante para navidad muy bonito y sabroso,abrazos.

Choclette said...

I do love a good pie and the ingredients here sound really nice - assuming I could find something to substitute the venison with that is. They also look really pretty.

grace said...

i love the shape of your pastry--how unique and festive! delicious. great suggestions, too.

Anonymous said...

These look so pretty and ooh-so tasty!

Couscous & Consciousness said...

I love the look of your Pithiviers - they're gorgeous. I have friends coming to stay for a couple of days over Xmas. I'm thinking these would delicious for our Boxing Day supper - so much nicer than turkey leftovers!!

Andrew Culture said...

What a great list! I also learned quite a few new words reading this post. I guess that's one of the great things about food, there's always so much more to discover! I had never heard of pithiviers before, but now they are firmly on my list of things to try.

I know this post is from 2013, but I think you really hit on something with your suggestion of food / drink related subscriptions as gifts. Despite some very unsubtle hints I'm yet to receive a whisky subscription as a gift from my family! The cheese subscription thing is getting really popular now too, my local superstar cheese shop offers a 'cheese club' that looks amazing!


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