Hunter’s pie with cider and tarragon

Prep 30 min
Cook 1 hr 30 min
Serves 6

Merlin Labron-Johnson’s hunter’s pie with cider and tarragon.

Merlin Labron-Johnson’s hunter’s pie with cider and tarragon.

1 rabbit, 1 large pheasant or 1 small chicken, jointed into small pieces on the bone
Olive oil
100g smoked bacon, cut into fine lardons
1 small carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
½ celeriac, peeled and finely diced
2 tbsp flour
100ml dry cider
150ml chicken stock
100ml cream
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 large handful tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and black pepper
1 squeeze lemon juice
500g shortcrust pastry
1 egg, beaten, for brushing

In a casserole pot, saute the rabbit (or pheasant or chicken) in a little oil until golden brown all over, then remove from the pan and set aside. Add the bacon, fry until golden, then set aside with the browned meat.

Add the carrot, onion, celeriac and flour to the pot, and cook, stirring, for five minutes, then add the cider, stock and cream. Return the meat and lardons to the casserolepot, pop on the lid and leave to simmer for 20 minutes.

Scoop out the rabbit pieces, leave to cool for 10 minutes, then pick the flesh from the bones. Return the picked meat to the pot, cook for five minutes more, then stir in the mustard and tarragon. Season to taste with salt, lemon juice and a generous amount of pepper. Remove the pie mix from the casserole and leave to cool for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Roll two thirds of the pastry to about 3mm thick. Use this to line the base and sides of a 23cm pie dish, then spoon in the cooled filling. Roll out the remaining pastry to make a lid, and crimp the edges to seal. Don’t worry too much about how neat it is – a hunter’s pie is a thing of rustic, rugged beauty.

Brush the top of the pie with beaten egg, then bake for 45 minutes. Serve hot with a green salad, mustard and a glass of cider.

Swiss chard and pine nut tart

Prep 10 min
Chill 45 min+
Cook 1 hr 30 min
Serves 4-6

Merlin Labron-Johnson’s swiss chard and pine nut tart.

Merlin Labron-Johnson’s swiss chard and pine nut tart.

1 bunch swiss chard (about 10 leaves with stalks intact), washed
40g butter
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
1 small handful sultanas
75ml milk, plus a dash extra for the wash
1 egg, beaten
2 egg yolks
75g grated parmesan
50g pine nuts, toasted
Salt and black pepper
2 x 320g rolls ready-made shortcrust pastry

Strip the chard leaves from the stalks, then chop the stalks as finely as possible and roughly chop the leaves. Melt the butter in a large pot, add the garlic, and cook for a minute, then add the chopped chard stalks and cook gently over a medium to low heat until nice and tender. Stir in the chopped chard leaves and sultanas, cook for another 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and stir in the milk.

Spoon the chard into a bowl, then mix in the beaten egg, one of the egg yolks, the parmesan and the pine nuts. Season generously with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg, then put in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.

Heat the oven to 190C (170C fan)/375F/gas 5. Line a deep dish, 23cm pie mould or spring-form tin with one roll of the shortcrust pastry, leaving plenty of overhang. Cut out a circle from the second roll of pastry that is big enough to cover the pie (save any surplus pastry for another use). Fill the lined pie dish with the chard mixture and top with the pastry circle. Pinch together the edges of the pie and tuck in to seal.

Mix the remaining egg yolk with a little milk, and brush all over the top of the pie. Cut a vent in the middle to let out the steam, then bake for one hour, until the pastry is nicely golden. Serve warm with a salad of bitter leaves such as radicchio and chicory.

Sausage and onion turnover

Prep 5 min
Cook 1 hr 45 min
Serves 4

Merlin Labron-Johnson: sausage and onion turnover.

Merlin Labron-Johnson’s sausage and onion turnover.

500g pork sausagemeat (free-range and organic, for preference)
Vegetable oil
2 large onions, peeled and sliced as thinly as possible
1 tbsp brown sugar
200ml ale or dark beer
Cracked black pepper
400g puff pastry
1 egg, beaten, for brushing

Break up the sausagemeat and brown it in a large frying pan with a little oil – use a spoon to break it up more while it’s cooking, and to prevent clumping. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper, to drain, and leave to cool.

Stir the onions into the hot pan, adding more oil if need be, and cook over a very low heat, stirring occasionally, for an hour, until completely soft but not burnt or coloured.

Add the sugar and beer, turn up the heat to medium-high and cook down until the liquid has almost completely evaporated.

Return the sausagemeat to the pan, season with lots of cracked black pepper and leave to cool.

Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick and cut out four, even-sized rectangles. Lay a line of the sausage mixture on each one and fold the pastry over top to enclose. Crimp the edges a little bit to seal, then brush with beaten egg and bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm with both English and wholegrain mustards.

Quince and almond pithivier

Prep/chill 25 min
Cook 50 min
Serves 4-6

For dessert: Merlin Labron-Johnson’s quince and almond pithivier.

Serve with lots of cream: Merlin Labron-Johnson’s quince and almond pithivier.

500g puff pastry
120g soft butter
120g sugar
1 egg, plus 2 egg yolks
120g ground almonds
15g flour
1 tbsp amaretto liqueur such as Disaronno
1 pinch salt
100g quince jam (or other jam of your choice), loosened with 1 tbsp water
1 tbsp milk
Icing sugar, for dusting
A few flaked almonds, toasted, to serve

Roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick, then, using a plate as a guide, cut out two discs: one about 20cm in diameter and the other slightly larger. Cut out a roughly 28cm square sheet of baking paper, and lay the smaller pastry disc on top. Chill both discs while you prepare the filling.

Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy, then mix in the whole egg and one of the yolks, followed by the ground almonds, flour and the liqueur. Add a pinch of salt and set aside.

Using a spoon, spread the jam over the smaller pastry disc, leaving a 2cm border around the edge. Top the jam with the almond cream – you may find it easier and neater to use a piping bag, but a spoon or spatula will also do the trick. Drape the larger pastry disc over the filling, then use your fingers and thumb to crimp together the edges as neatly as you can, and chill the pithivier for 15 minutes.

Heat the oven to 185C (175C fan)/385F/gas 5½. Mix the remaining egg yolk with a spoonful of milk, and brush over the top of the pie. Use a small knife to score an attractive pattern on the lid of the pithivier, and cut a little hole in the top to let the steam escape.

Bake for 35 minutes, until golden, then remove and leave to cool. Dust with icing sugar, scatter over a few toasted flaked almonds, and serve with whipped cream.

Merlin Lebron-Johnson is chef/patron of Osip in Bruton, Somerset.


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