Pigeon and pig's-trotter pie with suet crust

Serves 8

Pigeon is best, but if you can't find it, you can use any other game bird, or even chicken.

3 pig's trotters
A bundle of fresh herbs (try parsley, thyme and a fresh bay leaf)
1 whole head of garlic
2 fresh bay leaves
10 peppercorns
2 sticks of celery, chopped
2 red onions, cut in half
2 carrots, peeled
1 bottle of red wine
11/2 litres/21/2 pints chicken stock
A scoop of duck fat or butter
500g/16oz of green streaky bacon, cut into chunks, skin removed, rolled and tied
4 pigeon squabs, split in half, kept on the bone and seasoned with salt and pepper
3 onions, peeled and sliced
1 egg yolk, beaten

For the suet crust

200g/7oz self-raising flour
100g/31/2oz suet, grated
A healthy pinch of salt

The filling for this pie is best made the day before. Place the trotters in a pan with the herbs, garlic, bay leaves and peppercorns, celery, red onions and carrots. Cover with the red wine and stock, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for three hours until the trotters are tender, then remove from the pan and strain the stock. While the trotters are warm, pick the flesh and skin from the bones. Put aside.

Heat a frying pan, add the duck fat or butter, fry the bacon chunks, then remove to a deep roasting tray or oven dish. Now add the pigeon halves to the tray and brown them. Sweat the onions and add them, the trotter flesh and stock to the roasting tray, and cover with tin foil. Place in a hot oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes. Remove, check the seasoning and allow to cool in the stock. (It can be eaten at this point if you do not have the patience to make a pie.)

When cool, remove the pigeon and pull the meat off the bones, keeping the flesh in fairly large pieces. Return the meat to the other ingredients and chill in the fridge overnight.

To make the pastry, mix the ingredients together, then add cold water cautiously, to achieve a firm dough. Allow this to rest in the fridge for at least two hours.

Now place your mixture in a pie dish. Roll out the pastry, and cover the mixture, pressing down firmly on the sides to seal the edges. Brush with the egg and bake in a medium-hot oven for 40 minutes. When the pastry is golden and the stuffing is bubbling, serve. It is delicious with spring greens, sprouts or mashed potato.

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