Growing up, I thought all fathers took off on a Sunday morning with a dog and a shotgun, returning a few hours later with pheasant, duck and the odd rabbit. People are often critical of game hunting but I’ve never had an issue with it. I am happier eating a pheasant that has grown up in the wild and then killed quickly, than a battery chicken that has grown up in a tiny cage and pumped with growth hormones.
My dear dad has had his fair share of trouble with his hips and back over the last few years resulting in his shooting taking a reluctant hiatus. This winter however, has seen his return to form and last weekend I was the lucky recipient of a very fine pheasant.
. For those without a gun toting parent, frozen pheasant is now available in supermarkets (German retailers in particular!). The pheasant hung for three days before cooking. In the past, I would have plucked and cleaned out the bird but this time round I skinned him, removing the breasts and legs and discarding the rest. It was ridiculously easy in comparison and there was absolutely no mess. (If you wanted to roast the bird whole however, this wont work). It took 20 minutes which is less than it takes me to joint a chicken.
To skin the bird, make a 3 inch incision in the neck . Gently pull the skin apart down the length of the bird. You may need to pluck a few feathers out to see where you going. The skin literally peels back, exposing the breasts (no naughty pun intended!). With a sharp knife, cut down the middle of the bird, either side of breast bone and cut out the fillets. With a large knife or meat cleaver, remove the feet. Pull the skin back over the legs and then cut them out as you would a chicken’s. Run some cold water over the fillets and legs.
The recipe for the casserole is as follows:
1 large pheasant (or two smaller ones)
3 carrots, sliced into fairly large chunks
3 sticks celery, sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 parsnip, sliced
3 sprigs thyme
300 mls red wine
300 mls chicken stock
3 bay leaves
1 small punnet red currants
Chopped fresh parsley to garnish
Game seasoning: this is a blend of juniper berries, pimento, peppercorns, orange and lemon peel, clove, ginger and parsley. It is available in most supermarkets or gourmet food stores.
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius/180F. Half the fillets and season them and the legs with salt, pepper and the game seasoning.
2. Heat some oil in a pan (medium heat), brown the meat and place in a casserole dish.
3. To the frying pan, add the onions and sweat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, celery and parsnip and sauté for five minutes. Add the veg to the casserole dish along with the pheasant. Add the red wine, stock, bay leaves and thyme. Add two thirds of the red currants and a pinch of sugar.
4. Place your casserole in the oven for approximately one hour. 5. Serve in a deep dish and scatter over the remaining red currants and parsley. The casserole is gorgeous with potato and/or celeriac mash.