This recipe opitimises Autumn and seasonal eating. I’m in dangerous territory of sounding like we make a regular event of it, but my more manly other half spent last weekend trekking the Wiltshire countryside surrounded by more tweed than the Queen’s wardrobe and enough flatcaps to make Prince Philip smile. Long story short, if you can’t invisage this little gathering, he went on a shoot day and…you guessed it… brought home some pheasants!
This time of year is a great time to start indulging in warming comfort food and eating what the seasons dictate. I heard pheasant, my stomach thought, bacon, parsnips, chestnuts and all things festive.
So out came the trusty Le Creuset for what might be, its last outing in this Putney kitchen. As you’ve probably not noticed, I’ve not been as active as I have been this past year. Having spent the past year arranging our membership into the first time buyers club, we are finally nearly there. Touching distance. Packing distance. But just enough time for one more roast before my faithful kitchen that has served me so well these past years in London, gets packed away and upgraded to a new humble abode.
WINE: We were feeling a little like we’d overindulged in the alcohol that night, but this would have been lovely with a Pinot Noir.
- 1 whole pheasant, gutted and plucked
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 4 rashes or smoked, streak bacon OR 1 small pun net lardons
- 1 bunch thyme, leaves picked
- Handful of dried mixed mushrooms
- 1 glass dry white wine
- 500ml chicken stock
- 4oz Puy lentils
- 2 parsnips
- 1 bay leaf
- 200ml milk
- Beurre manie – 1 knob of butter, mashed into a paste with 1 tsp flour. Use at the end for thickening the sauce without creating lumps. The butter will also add a gloss.
- Steamed greens – kale, savoy cabbage etc (opional)
- Start by preheating the oven to 200. In a large heavy based casserole dish, heat a knob of butter and some oil. Season the pheasant and then brown the whole bird on all sides until its looking golden and the skin is crisping. Remove to a plate and set aside.
- Turn to heat down to a medium level and add the chopped onion and fry quickly until beginning to soften.
- Add the bacon/lardons and cook for a few minutes.
- Finally, add the garlic and thyme and cook gently for just a few more minutes.
- Turn up the heat, add the wine to deglaze the pan. Gentle simmer to reduce the alcohol.
- Add the pheasant back to the pan, chuck in the dried mushrooms and then add a good 200ml or so of the hot chicken stock.
- Place in the oven for 50minutes or so until cooked through. Baste a few times during cooking.
- When the bird has been in for about 30 minutes, start on the lentils. Simmer in the remaining chicken stock for about 18 minutes until just tender but with a definite crunch.
- Once the pheasant has cooked, remove onto a plate to rest. Pop the casserole dish back onto the hob and simmer the juices and roasted ingredients. Add the lentil (liquid and all) and simmer to combine. Simmer until reduced. Then add the beurre manie and cook out until beginning to thicken and turn glossy.
- Serve with steamed greens like kale or savoy cabbage
- Peel and roughly chop the parsnips.
- Add to a saucepan with about 200ml milk and then top up with water until covered.
- Add a few whole peppercorns from your grinder if you can OR a good pinch of cracked black pepper.
- Add the bay leaf
- Simmer (watching as the milk has a tendency to over boil) for about 10 minutes or until they are very tender but not waterlogged.
- Once the pheasant is at its resting stage, you’re ready to make the puree.
- Remove the parsnips from the liquid which you need to reserve.
- Add to a processor with seasoning, a good splash of reserved milk and a knob of butter. Blend to get the desired consistency adding more milk if needed (You can also use a masher).