Winter 2010

Country Pheasant Casserole

There are plenty of local pheasant in the shops now and they make a perfect seasonal dish to serve family and friends over Christmas. The recipe below renders even the biggest and toughest birds tender and flavoursome and the best thing is that it freezes well or can be made a few days ahead & kept chilled. It really seems to improve with reheating.

2 tblsps olive oil 25g butter
2 oven-ready pheasants, jointed or left whole •
100g smoked bacon lardons
4 small onions, peeled and quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled and bashed
2 heaped tblsp plain flour
300ml red wine
300ml chicken or vegetable stock
1-2 tblsps tomato purée
2-3 tblsps redcurrant, bramble or apple jelly
few sprigs fresh thyme
salt and black pepper


Preheat the oven to Gas 4 / 180°C. Heat the oil and butter in a large oven-proof casserole and brown the pheasants on all sides. Lift out the birds and set aside. Add the bacon, onions and garlic to the remaining fat and cook until they are gently browned and the bacon fat is released. Sprinkle over the flour and stir well. Add the wine, stock, tomato purée and jelly and continue stirring until the sauce is thickened and smooth. Throw in the sprigs of thyme and season with salt and pepper. Return the birds to the casserole, bring up to a simmer, then cover and cook for 1½ - 2 hours or until the pheasant is tender.

I like to make this casserole a day or so early then, when the whole thing is cold, I pull the birds apart, getting rid or any little bones, skin - and the odd bit of shot. I then put the meat / joints back into the sauce.

To reheat: heat gently on top of the stove, or in a preheated oven, Gas 4 / 180°C for about 30 minutes.

Good served with creamy mashed potatoes and sprouts picked from a stick and lightly cooked in boiling water.


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The best Chicken Liver Pâté
with Sweet Cucumber Salad


This pâté is smooth and delicious and makes an elegant first course, a useful addition to the Christmas spread or an easy topping for crostini, or canapés. The sweet cucumer salad is the perfect accompaniment to the pâté but also goes well with smoked salmon or ham.

For the pâté:
225g / 8oz chicken livers
30ml / 2 tblsp brandy
200 - 300g 8-12 oz soft butter
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
extra melted butter

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Line a pâté dish or loaf tin with cling film. Rinse and dry the chicken livers on kitchen paper. Melt a little butter in a frying pan over a low heat. When the butter begins to foam, add the livers and continue to cook over a gentle heat until all traces of pink are gone. Tip the livers into a liquidizer or food processor. While the frying pan is still hot, add the garlic and pour in the brandy. Scrape off the pan with a spatula and add to the livers. Process for a few seconds, allow to cool then add 225g / 8oz of the butter and process until well blended and smooth. Season with salt and pepper and add the thyme leaves. Add more butter if the pâté tastes too strong. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish or tin. Cover with a thin layer of melted butter and store in the fridge (this will stop the pâté oxidising and becoming grey and bitter).

Turn the pâté out of the tin and serve in slices or just scoop out to spread on croutons or toast. Garnish with the cucumber salad.

This pâté will keep for 4-5 days in a fridge. It freezes well.

For the salad:
175g / 6oz cucumber
50g / 2oz onion, very thinly sliced
50g / 2oz caster sugar
1 tsp salt
2½ tblsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp dried dill


To make the cucumber salad. Using a potato peeler, pare away alternate strips of the cucumber skin so that you have a striped effect. Cut the cucumbers in half, lengthways, and using a teaspoon, scoop out the seeds and discard. Slice the cucumbers as thinly as possible and mix with all the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Cover with a plate and leave in a cool place for a minimum of one hour but a day or two is also fine. Before serving, drain off the surplus liquid.

For an alternative, substitute the dried dill for a handful of chopped fresh coriander and a little finely chopped red chilli.