To make the filling
Melt the butter in a pan and gently cook the onions and garlic until they are very soft and translucent. Mix in the thyme, then add the brandy and port and continue to cook until the alcohol has evaporated.
Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Once the mixture is cool, add the roe deer trimmings, pork fat and belly and mix together. Mince this mixture and place in a large bowl.
Add the chopped apricots and chopped prunes and mix. Season with salt and pepper – check the seasoning at this point. The best way to do this is to fry a small amount (basically a mini burger) in a frying pan until cooked through and then taste it. Correct the seasoning if necessary. Separate into 6 x 60g portions and set aside.
To assemble the pithiviers
Grease 6 small bowls or cups that are no more than 8cm/3in in diameter each, and cover with cling film. Layer the inside of each with 2 slices of the pancetta, then trim. Pack about 30g of the filling into the base of each bowl, then in the centre add your 10g fillet of roe deer, then add the remaining 30g of filling over the top and press down firmly and smoothly.
Take one sheet of puff pastry and carefully turn out the six small bowls on to the pastry, leaving enough of a gap between each. Layer your next sheet of pastry over the top very carefully. Cut around each portion with a 90mm pastry cutter. Once you’ve done that, take a 70mm cutter, and use the top (not the sharp end) to just press down gently over the mixture to leave a small trim around the bottom.
Brush the pastry on each pie with some of the beaten egg. Place each finished pithivier on to a tray lined with parchment paper. Chill in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
Remove the pithiviers from the fridge and brush with the remaining beaten egg. Score the tops with the back of a knife, creating half-moon patterns across the pastry. Chill in the fridge until ready to cook.
To cook the pithiviers
Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4. Remove the pithiviers from the fridge. Make a small hole at the centre of each to allow steam and excess moisture to escape. I often do this with an old pen, having removed the ink. You can create a small pastry chimney on top of each pie with the trimmings from your pastry if you like.
Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. The roe deer fillets in the centre can still be medium rare but the mince must be cooked through. A good indication is to put a skewer in the middle and test it on your lip. If it feels hot then it is ready.
Place each pie on its own plate. Serve with a port sauce, which you can pour into the pithivier’s small chimney at the top. You can serve the dish really simply with some seasonal green vegetables, or you can garnish it, as I’ve done here, with a collection of onions – pickled red onion, braised spring onion, crispy onions, baby onion rings and onion purée.
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