The pies have it


David Kennedy, head chef at the Restaurant and Chef’s Room at Vallum foodie community on Hadrian’s Wall, has local venison butchered by his own fair hands on a menu replete with all forms of comfort, notably pies. Jane Pikett learns more

David Kennedy is familiar with the rule of the knife; he being a nose-to-tail cook who, where possible, butchers meat himself to ensure every bit of the animal that has made the ultimate sacrifice is used to best effect.

He is using deer from the nearby Matfen estate on his Christmas menu, which includes a glorious venison, cider and quince stew with herb dumplings served up in a big dish for two to share – a grand tribute to the beast at its heart.

But today we are talking pies, notably the 1kg venison sharing pie which has been the most popular dish in the restaurant over the last month.

“We know where it’s come from, we know who killed it, and we can butcher it here, which means we can use the whole beast,” says David, who fills his kitchen with the produce of the fields yards from his door.

For this ultimate comfort dish, shoulder and leg meat is marinated for a good couple of days in red wine, root vegetables from Vallum Kitchen Garden and harsh herbs like thyme and bayleaf. The wine is reduced, the stock made, the veg caramelised, the meat roasted, and the lot braised overnight so it’s nice and unctuous when it is topped off with the lightest pastry made by Vallum Bakery’s Murray Rhind and returned to the oven for slow cooking. What could be more natural? “Everyone likes the smell of a pie bubbling away when they walk into the kitchen,” says David. “It takes you back, doesn’t it?”

Diners in his restaurant share pies at the table, helping themselves from a big dish set between them, and he recommends a pie for dinner parties and visitors over the festive season. “With a pie, your work is done up front,” he says. “And everyone loves a pie. It’s the perfect solution.”

David uses lamb farmed at Catton near Allendale, again taking the lesser-known cuts for a pie, braising the meat with melted onions, rosemary and mint, topping off with Murray’s exquisite pastry and serving the result with classic Dauphinoise potatoes and greens.

“It’s endless what you can put in a pie,” he says. “We smoke our own meat and we’ve just done a smoked chicken, leek and smoked bacon pie. It’s the ultimate comfort food,” he says with a smile, heading back to the kitchen and the pastry-topped delights within. Me? I give in to temptation and settle down for lunch.

The pies have it.

Recipe: Venison Pie

Recipe: Festive Pie

Vallum Restaurant and Chef’s Room, East Wallhouses, Newcastle, NE18 0LL, tel 01434 672 406,

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