The BSG is a game lover. However, after a bad experience with a sinewy, over-exercised rabbit we picked up in Lincoln a few years back, I haven’t been able to separate that gamey taste from a tough-as-old-boots food memory, so I’ve shied away from it somewhat. So the prospect of three pheasants in our fridge, ready for the eating, filled me with dread. They say you must face your fears, so I thought I’d tackle mine head on…
When I asked the BSG what to do with it earlier that day, I received a very casual one line email: just bung it in a pot with the veg we’ve got left in the bowl and some stock and wine and cook for about 45 minutes. Easy.
OK, I thought, I can do casual, even though all I could think about was overcooking the damn thing, its stringy carcass languishing in thin, insipid juices. I made sure we had emergency freezer supplies, just in case…
But actually, what resulted was really rather good – helped by a pleasantly mild-tasting bird – and I’ll be doing it again. Not to mention easy; the very definition of a one-pot wonder. Two of us ate well, so figure that this recipe would serve three… It is easily multiplied, but increase the cooking times.
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
3 juniper berries
1 large glass red wine
1/2 pint of stock
1 whole pheasant
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1/2 a butternut squash, deseeded, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1/4 savoy cabbage, sliced
a lump of beurre manié: half softened butter and plain flour (optional – or add flour to the onions at the beginning)
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees.
In a heavy based lidded pan, sweat the onions in a little oil over a medium heat until they start to colour. Add the bay leaves and juniper berries – plus a tablespoon or two of plain flour if you want to thicken the sauce.
Deglaze the pan with the red wine and add the stock. Sit the pheasant in the pan amongst the onions, add the butternut squash pieces, garlic and season. Put the lid on the pan (I added a foil cartouche as well because I thought I ought to but I’m not ever really sure what this does. It just felt right).
Put into the oven for 45 minutes or so, turning the bird over halfway through (again – this just feels proper as I always do it with my roast chicken to keep the breast moist).
Remove the pot from the oven. Check the bird is cooked then rest it on a board and take out the squash from the pan whilst you reduce the sauce over a good heat – here you can whisk in the beurre manié to thicken if you like. Season to taste. Return the squash to the pan and add the cabbage. Put the lid on the pan and let this all cook for a further 7 minutes.
Carve the pheasant breast, joint the legs and serve in a bowl on top of the vegetables with plenty of sauce poured over, like a stewy soup (yes, you’ll need a spoon too).
For extra pleasure, I recommend mashing the squash into the gravy with the back of your fork. Watch out for lead shot – it’s in there somewhere and your molars will thank you for it.