“On another day a couple of pheasants were strolling companionably about the field adjoining our garden. No, not a brace: a couple. Two brothers, perhaps, or more likely at this time of year, father and son. You could imagine them quietly discussing the quality of the grass, or even the state of the land, especially after all this rain…Their land, of course. You can tell from the way pheasants walk, from the way they hold themselves, that it is they, not we, who are the landowners. We only hold this particular piece of the world for them on a temporary basis.”
-Elizabeth Gardiner, quoted in Winter, edited by Melissa Harrison
I eat an awful lot of chicken. It’s easy, it takes on flavour well, it’s hardly ever tough, and it’s not expensive. But, in fact, neither is pheasant, the season starts in October and by November it’s easy to find.
This is a very straightforward recipe, and so tender, with the flavours well-infused due to the very slow cooking.
Recipe for faisan au vin…. aka pheasant in red wine
- 8 pheasant quarters
- olive oil to fry
- 5 knobs/50g/5 tbsp butter
- 600ml/2½ cups/1 pint robust red wine (if you had any leftover mulled wine you could use it in this)
- 150g/5 oz (drained weight) pickled silverskin onions
- Smoked salt and Indonesian long black pepper
- 1 carrot – peeled and chopped
- 12 mushrooms
- 2 tbsp golden caster sugar
- 16 mushrooms
- Generous handful of parsley or the zest of an orange to garnish
- Preheat the oven to about 120°C (or use the simmering oven of the Aga, or a slow cooker).
- Heat half the butter and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a big frying pan and brown the pheasant joints on all sides. This will take about ten minutes.
- Move the pheasants into a big enamel or Le Creuset casserole.
- Add a couple more knobs of butter to the frying pan, drain the onions and add them. Add the carrot. Add the sugar. Stir for about five minutes until they are caramelised.
- Add to the pheasants.
- Peel the mushrooms if they need it, and separate the stems.
- Fry the mushroom heads and add to the pheasant and onions.
- Add another knob of butter to the pan and a tablespoon of flour, mix to make a roux, and cook for a couple of minutes, together with the mushroom stalks (you might need to add a little more butter or oil).
- Add the wine slowly, stirring in with a wooden spoon to avoid lumps.
- Reduce until it is a nice rich gravy.
- Pour this gravy over the pheasants and cover the casserole.
- Cook slowly for about four hours.
- Serve garnished with the orange zest or the parsley.
This post is dedicated to Kate Measham who encouraged me with all the illustrations.