Happy New Year to you all!
I recently commented on a post by Mad Dog following his recipe for pheasant curry. I rarely eat it to be honest, but my folks back down in Worcestershire have a seemingly never ending supply. Local hunters on shoots struggle to get rid of the carcasses as there’s no commercial value to them it seems (there’s no ‘traceability’ in order to sell them on).
On top of that, few people have the confidence (or stomach) to prepare them themselves and so don’t take them. It’s a crying shame as its such a nice lean free-range meat and not so ‘gamey’ meaning it could appeal to a wide range of people. You just have to keep an eye out for shot and feathers pulled into the meat.
We visited over the Christmas holidays and they had a brace out the back (a male and female). Although dad prepares the whole bird, with there being little meat on the legs and depending on how much they have, he often simply cuts out the breast meat which can be done in minutes with a sharp knife. It may be frozen until needed.
I bought some fresh and frozen pheasant back with me and my first thought was this recipe. It’s one of my favourite warm salad dishes by the excellent Rick Stein. I don’t normally do recipes, rather take inspiration, but this is pretty faithful to the original book, so credit is due. I’m sure there’s something that can be done to tweak it further, but it’s so good, I don’t bother! The oven dried tomatoes were my addition though and adds a lovely sweetness.
I strongly urge the use of a thermometer as the pheasant can be overcooked easily and quickly! You want them to be just done (60-65°C) – a sous vide would be ideal for this, but that will be a purchase for another day..
I generally use ‘peppery’ salad leaves as they work best and tend to get the mixed bags as there’s little waste that way.
- 2 pheasant breasts, trimmed of any fat.
- Oil for frying
- 2 streaky bacon or pancetta rashers, sliced
- 1/2 large or 1 normal red onion finely sliced
- 1 large garlic clove
- 3 small floury potatoes (King Edwards/Maris Piper etc etc)
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Mixed salad leaves – I used spinach rocket and watercress
- 2 large tomatoes, halved
- Salt and pepper
Start with the tomatoes: sprinkle the halves with some sea salt and pepper and place on a tray in a preheated oven (180°C/ 350°F) for 15-20 minutes until wilted. Leave to keep warm.
Turn the heat down to keep the food warm only.
Slice the potatoes fairly thinly and sauté in a little salt until crisp and golden on each side – about 10 minutes. You may want to do this in batches in a smaller pan as they need to be in a single layer. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm. If you can – try and do this at the same time as the meat so they remain crispy.
Add about a tablespoon of oil to a very hot pan and fry the bacon. Push to one side and add the pheasant breasts. Season with a little salt and pepper. If they are small, they will pan fry in a just a few minutes so keep the thermometer handy.
Leave the bacon in the pan but set aside the pheasant in the warm oven to rest.
Add a little more oil if needed and fry the garlic and onion. Deglaze with the red wine vinegar and turn the heat off.
Arrange the salad on a plate with the sliced pheasant and spoon over the warm onion dressing. Beautiful winter dish!