Last Updated on January 4, 2022
Anything but the turkey! Pheasant Pot Roast.
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Do you enjoy game birds? A seasonal treat, well-hung pheasant has bags of flavour and can be roasted, pot-roasted or jointed and used in a casserole. One pheasant is the perfect size for two people while a brace of pheasants – a male and a female pair- should feed four or possibly five people. Other than portions of pheasant breast which are good to pan fry, my favourite way to cook these birds is as a pot-roast. It’s a forgiving technique and useful for cooking pheasant at any time other than early in the season when the birds are likely to be tender. A pheasant pot roast also ensures good results if there’s a chance your birds haven’t been hung for long enough.
The daughter of a country doctor, throughout the winter months, there would be a regular knock on the door and a gift for my father in the form of a brace of pheasant fresh from a local shoot. Never plucked and usually not hung either, they’d disappear off into an outhouse for a few days, then someone (usually the lady who came in to clean and tidy the surgery) would gut, pluck and trim them. I do remember my mum attempting this herself once and once only, threatening my dad with divorce if she was ever expected to do that again. Living in London, it’s not something I’ve seen recently. Where you do see birds hanging to age, it’s usually in very expensive butchers – and what you buy is neatly prepared for you. So, unless you are buying from a specialist game butcher you are unlikely to have any idea of how long the birds have been hung. Mine came from Field and Flower – delivered fresh rather than frozen. Well-hung game has a distinctive smell and both from my own instinct and from previous experience of working with Field and Flower produce, I’d guess this was indeed properly hung. But, there’s no way to know!
My normal method for pot roasting is to use white wine and stock together with a classic mix of celery, carrots and onion. And, sometimes a complementary ‘special’ ingredient like pears, apples or chestnuts. This recipe comes from Delia Smith – using port and red wine together with chestnuts to make what sounds like the perfect festive pot-roast. I started by making it following the recipe exactly – and if I’m honest, I was a little disappointed. There are a number of things that I have changed – and I hope they’ve improved the end result. Firstly, I’ve used a classic mirepoix of onion, celery and carrot as the base for the pot roast. I’ve kept the core mixture of chestnuts, pheasant and shallots but, once the liquid is in the pan and simmering gently, I’ve transferred everything to the oven because for my money even with a Dutch oven, pot roast works better that way rather than cooked on the hob. I’ve used double the amount of port and red wine than the original recipe suggested and I’ve cooked the liquid down at the end for longer. The end result is rich and fragrant, a perfect festive treat.
Pre-heat your oven to 160C (fan) or 170C (conventional). Start this recipe by browning the seasoned pheasant on all sides in a casserole that will fit all the ingredients and can go in the oven and on the hob. Use tongs to turn the bird so that you get golden skin. Remove the bird from the casserole and do the same thing with the peeled shallots and bacon. Put them to one side and add the mirepoix into the fat and reduce the heat down. Cook for 8-10 minutes, adding in the chopped garlic at the end.
Once that is done, put the pheasant back into the casserole and add the shallot and bacon mix all around together with the mushrooms. Tuck the herbs (I’ve used rosemary and bay) around the casserole and pour in the wine and port. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer on the hob, then put the lid on the casserole and pop the whole thing in the oven. After half an hour take it out and add in the chestnuts. I’ve made this recipe with ready peeled chestnuts and with fresh ones which I’ve roasted myself and I’d defy anyone to know the difference. You might save a little money by buying fresh chestnuts but they are quite fiddly to roast and peel so the Merchant Gourmet ready peeled sort work well for me!
Cook with the chestnuts for a further half an hour then remove the pheasant and put to one side covered in foil to rest and lift out the vegetable/chestnut mixture while you reduce down the sauce for five minutes. Next, you’ll need about a dessert spoon of flour and the same quantity of softened butter, blended together to make what is called beurre manié. Drop little nuggets of the beurre manié into the sauce and heat gently while you whisk in the mixture. Once everything is well combined, bring the mixture to a gentle boil and cook for a further five minutes or so until the sauce is about the consistency of double cream, tasting to make sure there’s no floury residue and to adjust the seasoning. If you like add a bit more butter!
If you want to serve this for a formal meal, then put the pheasant in the centre of your serving dish, arrange the chestnuts and onion mixture around it and pour the sauce over. Garnish with a little fresh chopped parsley. Any remaining sauce can go into a jug.
I like this pheasant pot roast with dauphinoise potatoes and spiced red cabbage. For Christmas, I might just add in a few Brussel sprouts too!
You’ll need a fairly robust red wine to cook this dish – and Entre Lunas fits the bill perfectly. Of course, it’s far more than a cooking wine – I like to use a little for the recipe and then enjoy the rest of the wine while we are eating. Entre Lunas is a delicious organic and biodynamic Spanish tempranillo with a name that means between the moons. The vineyards at Finca Constancia lie between two mountain ranges and the makers aim to encourage wildlife by keeping their vineyards healthy without using any chemicals. This wine is aged in oak barrels for eight months and has a wonderfully mellow, rounded palate. At 14% ABV it’s robust and if you didn’t have any port to hand, you could just use more of the wine in the dish. But, that would be a shame because it’s a really pleasant wine to drink and retails in supermarkets for between £8.50 and £10.00
Now, here’s my version of Delia Smith’s pot-roasted pheasant with port and chestnuts – scaled for two people, cooked in the oven and with a rather richer sauce than the original recipe.
A delicious pot roast pheasant recipe that makes a perfect festive winter treat
- 1 pheasant
- 8 shallots
- 150 grams mushrooms
- 100 grams chestnuts
- 1 small brown onion
- 1 medium carrot
- 2 sticks celery
- 2 cloves garlic
- 150 millilitre port
- 250 millilitre red wine
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprig rosemary
- 75 grams smoked streaky bacon lardons
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 dessert spoons butter
- 1 dessert spoon plain flour
- 1 handful fresh parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 150C
Put half the oil with a dessert spoon of butter into a heavy-based casserole over a medium heat
Pat the pheasant dry with kitchen paper, then season with salt and pepper
Once the butter is sizzling, add the pheasant and brown on all sides, turning with tongs as necessary
Meanwhile, peel the shallots, carrots, garlic and onion
Chop the carrot, celery and onions into small chunks
Once the pheasant has browned, take it out of the pan and add in the shallots and bacon pieces, browning well
Remove from the casserole with a slotted spoon and add in the onion, carrot and celery.
Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the crushed or chopped garlic for the last 2 minutes
Now put the pheasant back in the pan and surround it with the shallots, mushrooms, and bacon.
Tuck the herbs around the mixture and pour over the wine and port.
Bring the mix to a gentle simmer, put the lid on and pop it in the oven for 30-45 minutes
Add the chestnuts
Return to the oven for 30 minutes
Meanwhile mix the flour with the remaining softened butter. I use a fork to mash the mixture together, you may prefer to use your fingers
Take the pheasant out of the pan and set it to one side under a foil tent to rest. You can also take the chestnut and shallot mixture out with a slotted spoon and keep warm
Bring the liquid to a boil on the hob and reduce down a little for 5 minutes
Add in nuggets of the flour and butter mixture using a small balloon which to mix in and continue to cook for at least 5 minutes until the sauce has thickened and doesn't taste floury. Add more salt and pepper if necessary
You can serve this in the casserole or on a large platter, a slightly more elegant option. Put the pheasant in the centre of the platter and surround it with the chestnut, shallot and vegetable mixture. Pour over half the sauce and garnish with chopped fresh parsley. Serve the remaining sauce in a jug
Serve with gratin dauphinoise, sprouts and spiced red cabbage for a delicious seasonal pot roast.
If you are interested in making this pheasant pot roast at home, I’d urge you to do your best to source good quality, fresh pheasant. If you are lucky enough to have a specialist game butcher near you, that’s one option. If not, Field and Flower has a great range of products, including game. Their wild game is all sourced from English estates and the pheasant is described as being ‘carefully prepared after a short period of hanging’. I particularly like the fact that their produce is all delivered fresh but ready to be frozen. They also sell regular meat, cheese, fish and deli products so, if like me, you are buying for a small household you won’t end up with way too much food. They are ethical suppliers, sourcing their produce from British farms and fishermen. Since they started business in the West Country, their range does have a bias to that part of England – you’ll find Wiltshire ham for example! And, their delivery charge across the UK is £2.95 for weekday slots and £3.95 for weekends. They also have a subscription service where you’ll get loyalty discounts if you shop regularly with them.