Monday, November 12, 2007

Pheasant casserole with cider

A couple of years ago, I returned home to find two dead birds hanging from the knob on my front door. This was somewhat alarming and unusual as I live in the middle of London and my front door is in fact inside (I have the ground floor flat of a Victorian terrace). Once I got over the initial shock, I noticed that my neighbour had a similar brace hanging from his door. On closer inspection, I saw that these beady-eyed beauties were in fact Partridge.

Slightly bemused by the appearance of these birds, I headed into my flat trying not to knock them off the door knob. A few hours later I received a knock on my door. My neighbour.

Him: 'Hope you don't mind the birds? I haven't got anywhere else to hang them.'
Me: 'No, not at all. Gave me a bit of a shock when I walked in, but it is fine. Would you rather I put them in my shed?'
Him: 'No - they are fine there. Don't suppose you like game?'
Me: [BINGO!] 'I love game'
Him: 'Why not keep that brace for yourself then?'

In the weeks that followed, I was lucky to receive sporadic offerings of a similar kind following his weekend shooting excursions. Pheasant, partridge, wood pigeon - sadly never any grouse! Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have been so lucky of late. He has a new girlfriend, perhaps she doesn't approve of his country pursuit. Anyway, I have been feeling somewhat deprived and found myself throwing a pack of pheasant thigh and breast meat into my trolley in a certain well-known, upmarket supermarket earlier this week.

Waitrose has a good selection of game, as it happens. I was rather impressed. I shall go back. Or rather I would if it were not for the baffling 'instructions' on the pheasant packaging. I had decided I would make a big casserole which I would then freeze into individual portions. For emergencies. As I took the meat out of the packet I happened to glance upon a notice on the wrapper that said 'once cooked, do not re-heat'. Why? In my book, casseroles always taste better the second outing, once the flavours have had time to mingle. Why, if the meat is fresh, should the casserole not be frozen then carefully re-heated on another occasion? If anyone can shed any light on this, I would be most grateful.

Anyway, here is the recipe for the casserole. I decided to use cider - the appley flavour was delicious with the pheasant. Definitely one to repeat. I made it up as I went along - next time, I think I would add leeks too. It may not be very photogenic (does anyone have any tips for making stews/casseroles look attractive?!), but it tasted absolutely delicious.

Pheasant Casserole with Cider

Ingredients (serves 4)

500g pheasant boned pheasant thighs (or combination of breast and thigh)

2 medium onions

1 large clove garlic

2 large carrots

2 sticks celery

250g mushrooms

1 pint cider

1 tbsp olive oil

Bay leaf

Bouquet garni and/or sprig or two of thyme

Salt and pepper

1. Pre-heat oven to 150C. Heat oil in a large casserole. Brown the meat evenly on all sides and set to one side, covered to keep warm.

2. Slice the onion and celery. Dice the carrot. Finely chop the garlic. Soften the veg for five minutes in the casserole, adding a little more oil if needed.

3. Slice the mushrooms and add to the pot, along with the browned meat. Season.

4. Add the cider so that the ingredients are covered - you may only need 3/4 pint. Add bay leaf, bouquet garni and/or thyme. Turn heat up a little and bring to simmering point - give a good stir.

5. Place in the oven and cook at 150C for 50-60 minutes. Check a couple of times during cooking in case the liquid needs topping up. If so, add more cider or a little chicken stock. Serve with fluffy mashed potatoes and greens, or celeriac mash.
Notes - The sauce is quite broth-like. If you prefer a thicker sauce, sprinkle a little seasoned flour over the meat prior to browning. You could also add some cream for more of a dinner party type dish - I stirred some cream into a little and it was good. But I actually think I preferred the non-creamy version (did I actually say that? I preferred the non-creamy version? I am clearly not yet fully better!).


Wendy said...

Sounds delicious! I love game of all kinds. And I love generous neighbours. My own dives off the west coast and occasionally brings me scallops and crab. :)

Rosie said...

This DOES sound delicious and all those wonderful ingredients. A wonderful dish for this time of year.

BTW antonia, The Great British Pudding Challenge is under way for this month until the end of november :)

Rosie x

Anonymous said...

You'll just have to get rid of the girlfriend.

Abitofafoodie said...

Wendy - I love all game too. Delicious. And lucky you with the generous neighbour!

Rosie - Yes - perfect for these chilly nights. I wish I had some left to enjoy tonight.

Lynn - good plan. I'll work on it!

Anonymous said...

I tried this recipe, it is Great!!
The reason that your pkg said not to reheat is because pheasant becomes tough and dry very easily.

Anonymous said...

the other reason may be that the waitrose pheasant has been previously frozen. does the packet say it's suitable to freeze? if it doesn't then it's usually been frozen once already and shouldn't be frozen a 2nd time.