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27 Sept 2019

Mairi Sawyer’s game pie

Written by Claire Jessiman,
A game pie, wrapped in streaky bacon, is displayed on a long wooden platter. The first slice has been cut open.
Game pie
The original recipe for this dish comes from the cookbook of Mairi Sawyer. She took over the running of Inverewe Garden from her father, Osgood Mackenzie, the garden’s founder, before gifting it to the National Trust for Scotland in 1952.

I must admit that my jaw dropped when I read the original instructions for Cold Game Pie in the recipe collection of Mairi Sawyer. It dropped even further when I was told that, for the venison, Mairi would not only shoot the deer herself but then skin it too!

Some of the ingredients for the pie (which is actually more of a terrine) proved hard to come by; while I was able to get venison at the supermarket, it was trickier to find hare, grouse and deer’s liver and tongue, so I swapped these for easier alternatives.

The last line of Mairi’s recipe reads: ‘The addition of a hare, grouse or duck and a glass of Port Wine improved this pie.’ I took her advice on the duck and the port, but I was concerned that my terrine might not set without the luxury of her ‘very rich venison stock’, so I opted to add gelatine. This gave it a wonderfully glossy finish which, while perhaps not entirely authentic to the original concept, both looked and tasted delicious.


  • 200g bacon lardons
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 750g venison steak, minced
  • 400g duck breast fillets (skin off), minced
  • 450g chicken livers, roughly chopped
  • 60ml port
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
  • 250g streaky bacon
  • 1 tbsp pink peppercorns
  • 1 sachet gelatine
  • 1 beef stock cube


  1. Fry the lardons and onion in a little oil until soft. Add the venison and duck. Once this has browned, take the pan off the heat. Add the port and parsley, and season.
  2. In another pan, gently fry the chicken livers until browned. Remove from the heat and season well.
  3. Grease a terrine dish or large loaf tin and line it with streaky bacon.
  4. Heat the oven to 150C.
  5. Layer a third of the venison/duck mix in the terrine dish, sprinkle over half of the pink peppercorns, and follow with half the liver. Repeat. Press down firmly.
  6. Put the terrine in a roasting pan half full of water, then place in the hot oven for 2 hours.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Cut a strip of foil or card to fit, and place this on top of the terrine, weighing it down with a few heavy weights or cans. Chill in the fridge.
  8. Once the terrine is cold, remove the lid. Make a beef jelly. Let the gelatine bloom in 50ml of cold water, then add this to a pan with a further 50ml of water and a beef stock cube. Bring to a simmer then pour over the terrine to fill in any gaps – you may not need the full amount.
  9. Return to fridge and allow to set overnight before tipping out and serving.

Read more about Claire’s culinary adventures at