When I was a child, pheasant was always our traditional Christmas dinner, and has remained one of my favourite foods. I’m not sure if is because they are only available for part of the year (I also love jerusalem artichokes, celeriac, and creme eggs) or what, but as soon as I saw them in Borough market, I had the urge to cook them. So, when my Canadian housemate suggested a house Christmas dinner, I went for it. I’m not sure this was what she had in mind. First of all, the pheasants I got came with their feet still attached, giving the impression of scalded velocirapti (I’m hoping this is the plural) which have since been removed and used to prank various housemates (not currently sure where they are). Also, we had to explain about the issue of buckshot, and how it will be found somewhere in the pheasant so you have to be careful. I’m afraid she may think we’re a bunch of savages now, though I think the pheasant went down well.For non UK/Ireland readers, pheasant are wild game birds which are hunted in winter. Bread sauce is hard to explain and does not sound very nice on paper, but you have to trust me it is fantastic with pheasant or chicken.
The bread sauce and stuffing are from the Ballymaloe Cookbook, and the red wine jus is amended from a Marco Pierre White recipe. We had two pheasants (one cock and one hen) for 4, and that was more than enough.
- 2 pheasant
- 75g butter
- 4 strips of bacon
- 3 banana shallots or 2 small onions, chopped
- 1 bunch fresh herbs (most supermarkets sell a fresh stuffing herb mix)
- 400g breadcrumbs
- 175g butter
Red wine jus
- 1 x 75cl bottle red wine
- 2 shallots
- 1 litre beef stock
- 2 teaspoons butter
- 600ml milk
- 100g breadcrumbs
- 2 onions
- 12 whole cloves
- 50g butter
- 75ml double cream
Method: Pheasant and stuffing
- First make the stuffing.
- Saute the onions in the melted butter over a medium heat until soft.
- Add the breadcrumbs, chopped herbs and season.
- My pheasant came clean and oven ready, I would advise asking your butcher to do the same.
- Season the cavity of the pheasants and add the stuffing (I advise holding the pheasant upright, the feet helped for this and really cramming it in with a spoon).
- I melted the butter for the pheasant and poured it over both.
- Top the pheasant with the strips of bacon, two per pheasant.
- Roast the pheasant, breast upwards, at 190C or approximately one hour, or until the leg of the pheasant, when pricked, releases clear juices.
- Chop the shallots and saute in butter until soft.
- Add the wine, and simmer until reduced to a syrup consistency.
- Add the stock and cook for another 5-10 minutes until well reduced.
- The original recipe involved port, which I didn’t use, but would have made this sweeter, so I stirred in some honey to taste (about 1.5 teaspoons, but go easy and taste as you go).
- Strain through a sieve to remove the shallots.
Method: Bread sauce
- Peel the onions and stick 6 cloves in each. I made the mistake of using halved shallots (see above), which disintegrated into the sauce, along with the cloves, and had to be fished out at the end – rookie mistake.
- Put all the ingredients but the cream in a saucepan.
- Cook over a low heat, gently simmering for about 25-30 minutes.
- Remove the onion and stir in the cream at the last minute.
- Serve hot.
- By now, the pheasant should be cooked.
- Leave the pheasant to sit for 10 minutes before carving.
- Reheat the jus with a knob of butter to glaze.
- Serve with roast potatoes and roast vegetables.