Alpaca and Root Vegetable Pie Recipe
Alpacas are native to South America and are members of the wider camel family, but their woolly coats and diminutive size in comparison to other members of the genetic grouping makes them look almost like large, long-necked sheep. Alpaca meat is technically a form of wild game but appears very similar to lean lamb in its raw form. It has a milder taste than many other types of game, so is not so well-suited to being paired with other ingredients with strong and robust flavours. A simple stew or pie such as described in the recipe below are perfect for enjoying alpaca meat at its very best.
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 2 hours 15 min
Ready in: 3 hours 15 min
Yields: 4 servings
- 1 pound alpaca meat (cut in to one inch chunks)
- 2 or 3 tablespoons vegetable or sunflower oil
- Salt and black pepper
- ½ large red onion
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 pint fresh chicken (or lamb) stock
- 2 medium parsnips
- ½ pound puff pastry
- Flour for dusting rolling surface
- 1 egg
- 2 heads of broccoli
- Pickled baby beets to serve (optional)
Pour the cooking oil in to a large saucepan and bring it up to a medium to high heat. Add the alpaca meat, season with salt and pepper and stir around with a wooden spoon until evenly browned and sealed. This should only take two to three minutes.
Moderately finely slice the peeled red onion half, separate the slices in to strands and add to the pan with the browned alpaca. Saute for a further minute or two until the onion strands are just starting to soften.
Wash the carrots very well but there is no need to peel them unless the skin is particularly badly bruised or damaged. Top and tail them before slicing in to discs around a quarter to half an inch thick. Add to the pan with the alpaca meat and onion and stir through.
Pour the chicken or lamb stock in to the pan and turn up the heat to the maximum setting until the stock begins to simmer. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, cover and continue to simmer in this way for one and a half hours. Check the pan every so often to make sure the stock is not reducing too much. This is unlikely but if necessary, a little bit of boiling water from your kettle can be used to top up the liquid level.
Use a fork or ideally a metal skewer to check the alpaca meat is tender. If necessary, cook for a further thirty minutes and test again. Wash the parsnips but again there is no need to peel provided the skin is not excessively damaged. Top, tail and chop to medium sized chunks. Stir in to the alpaca stew.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat and vegetables to a ten by seven inch, one inch deep pie dish. Pour in enough stock that to cover the bottom half of the filling only. (Reserve the remaining stock in the pan!) If you add too much stock, the pastry will become soggy and fail to rise. If you don't add enough, the meat will dry out. Cover the dish and leave for about half an hour to cool completely. Assembling the pie when the filling is hot will also cause the pastry to become soggy and fail to rise.
Remove the puff pastry from your fridge at this stage to allow it to reach room temperature and make it easier to roll out and shape.
Lightly flour a clean, dry surface and roll out the pastry to a rectangle just slightly bigger than the pie dish. Lift it carefully on to the dish and crimp with two fingers around the edges. Trim off the overhangs with a sharp knife. Leave the pie as is that the pastry may rest after rolling while your oven preheats to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6.
When the oven is heated, break the egg in to a small cup or bowl and beat with a fork until the white and yolk are just combined. Glaze the pie all over with a pastry brush and be sure to cut two or three steam vents in the centre. Sit the pie dish on a baking tray and place it in the oven for twenty-five to thirty minutes until the pastry is risen and golden.
Take the pie from the oven and set it aside to rest while you prepare the broccoli (or of course your accompaniments of choice).
The broccoli could of course be boiled or steamed in conventional fashion but using the leftover stock imparts a little bit of extra flavour. Begin by putting the stock on to reach a simmer while you wash the broccoli heads and break/cut the florets from the stalk.
Put the broccoli florets in to the hot stock and pour in enough boiling water to ensure they are comfortably covered. Simmer for five to seven minutes, depending upon the size of the florets.
When the broccoli is almost ready, cut the pastry of the pie in to four quarters and lift carefully with a spatula to a holding plate. Ensure that any pieces of vegetable or meat clinging to the underside of the pastry are gently freed and returned to the pie dish.
Drain the broccoli at your sink through a colander and allow it to steam off and dry out for a couple of minutes.
Use a slotted spoon to divide the pie filling equally between four serving plates. Spoon a little of the gravy over each portion of filling.
Lift a pastry top quarter on to the top of each portion of pie filling.
Plate the broccoli and the optional pickled baby beets alongside the pie on the plate and serve immediately.
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© 2018 Gordon Hamilton