I have a new friend. His name is Trevor. Trevor has been in the village a few years now, dashingly handsome although a little plump. He has an eye for the girls (and there are lots of them strutting their stuff around Ludwell) but competition such as this has never phased me as I know I have something different to offer.
Trevor is a rather mature cock pheasant – glorious feathers of orange-brown, blue, green and red – although he recently lost a small piece of his tail which looks sore, but means I can recognise him some way off. Trevor walks down the field and over the bridge, jumps through the gap in the gate and up to my back door where he peers, making weird woofing noises calling for breakfast. I feed him daily on bird food – the corn and sunflower seeds being his favourite. He often supplements his diet on my herbs and bushes or scratches up my bulbs, which is a less endearing quality of his. I am waiting for him to bring his girlfriends to breakfast as I would have no qualms about bagging them and putting them in a pot with a few onions and what’s left of the herbs. I don’t think Trevor is ever likely to be shot, as I believe he is too fat to fly but is probably a ‘sitting’ target for a lazy gun (that’s not an invitation – lazy guns!).
A brace of pheasant turned up on my doorstep over Christmas, thanks to Peter my electrician. I was keen to remind myself about how to prepare a pheasant the least messy way. I turned to YouTube where I found a couple of methods within my squeamish grasp, one traditionally plucking the bird, the other skinning.
If you are ever faced with the dilemma of how to prepare a pheasant, I would strongly recommend opting for the skinning method as it means no feathers up your nose, or stuck like cement to the floor and on your clothes. You just skin the pheasant as you might a rabbit, presuming you have seen this done. I took the breast meat off in one go and boned out the legs although removing the tendons is strenuous work. I shan’t give you the details here, but this involves cracking bones and pulling bits apart. My passion for food and thrift didn’t stretch to saving the tastier parts of the innards, so that all went in the bin along with the neck and carcass. This would make a great stock, but as I was somewhat overwhelmed by food over the holiday period, I admit to being wasteful.
There is little fat on a pheasant (Trevor could be the exception here) so, if I was roasting the breasts, I would wrap them in bacon or add them to a game casserole, terrine or pie mix. A terrine can be made with a mixture of any bird, game or pork pieces and makes a wonderful centre piece for a lunch party – great for cold suppers, a starter, picnics. Serve the terrine with a crisp salad, a fruit chutney or jelly/sauce and some warm crusty bread or toast. You’ll enjoy this one.
Serves 8. Approx. £14.60 when all ingredients purchased in Ludwell
800g Selection of lean game meats (e.g. duck, pheasant, rabbit, venison, pigeon) plus chicken and gammon. (I used a mix of pheasant; chicken; venison and gammon)
300g streaky bacon, de-rind, stretch and flatten with the back of a knife
For the Forcemeat
500g sausage meat
Small amount of liver from the bird or chicken liver – chopped finely or minced (optional)
2 handfuls of fresh white breadcrumbs
4 tbsp finely chopped parsley and thyme (use tarragon if your meat is more poultry than game)
6 juniper berries – crushed
2 cloves of garlic – crushed
3 shallots – finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 160°C / Gas Mark 3 / AGA roasting oven with cold shelf on middle rack
1. Gently fry the shallots in a little oil, before combining with the sausage meat, liver, breadcrumbs, herbs, juniper berries and egg. Mix well (use your hands).
2. Add the splash of brandy and season. (Check the seasoning in the sausage meat by frying off a small piece before adding additional seasoning).
3. Cut the game/poultry into strips – fat finger size.
4. Brown the game pieces (not the chicken or gammon) by frying gently.
5. Line a terrine dish or loaf tin with the stretched rashers of bacon, ensuring there are no gaps. This is fiddly but therapeutically rewarding.
6. Add a layer of forcemeat, then the strips of game/chicken, forcemeat, game etc., until you have at least three layers of both, finishing with forcemeat.
7. Fold the exposed rashers over the top, cover well with kitchen foil or terrine lid.
8. Place the terrine in a roasting dish half filled with hot water.
9. Cook for 2 hours before testing with a meat thermometer or skewer (which must come out of the centre piping hot). Cook for a further 20–30 minutes if required.
10. Press your terrine as it cools by placing another tin on top with a can or weight of some kind – this is really important for easy slicing and a smarter finish.
11. Press and chill for several hours or overnight.
12. To serve, turn out, slice thickly with a very sharp knife and serve with a fruit chutney and crusty bread or toast. Alternatively, melt down some redcurrant jelly adding a little white wine or juice and serve as a warm sauce.
A truly, truly scrumptious light lunch or supper, anytime of the year.
These musings and recipes are gleaned from The Donhead Digest with the permission of AIF, their author.