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.