Saturday, 10 January 2015

Roast Pheasant with Bread Sauce

In the UK, the season during which you are allowed to shoot Pheasants runs from 1st October to 1st February, so if you want a fresh Pheasant you had better hurry up! I am not in a position to shoot Pheasants (I don't have a gun), so although the countryside all around me is swarming with Pheasants the one I am going to write about today was bought at the supermarket. Each year, literally millions (approx. 50 million in 2013) of captive-bred Pheasants are released into our countryside, and many of them will presumably end up on the supermarket shelves like mine did. I am not sure about the morality of this. Those Pheasants will provide "sport" for about 250,000 shooting enthusiasts, as well as meat for shoppers like me. But what effect does this huge influx of birds have on the populations of native wild birds, with whom they must compete for their food? And what do they eat anyway - surely it is crops planted by farmers? Wouldn't it be better to just eat the captive-reared birds like we would do if they were chickens? This is definitely something to think about, but today I have to admit that my mind is not on the morality issues, but on the culinary virtues of the Pheasant.

One oven-ready Pheasant ("Warning: may contain shot.")
A Pheasant is about the size of a small chicken. It will easily feed two people. It's meat is not particularly gamey, but certainly tasty, although since it contains little fat it it can dry out easily if not treated properly. Here is my recipe for it.

Roast Pheasant with Bread Sauce (serves 2)
Ingredients for the roast Pheasant
1 oven-ready Pheasant (mine weighed 600 grams)
4 rashers of streaky bacon
1 sprig of fresh Thyme
6 Juniper berries, crushed
Half a lemon
250 ml red wine
40g butter
Salt and pepper for seasoning

Ingredients for the Bread Sauce
1 small onion, peeled but left whole
1 Shallot, peeled and finely diced
1 small knob of butter
1 Bay leaf
2 Cloves
300 ml fresh milk
2 slices of white bread, made into breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper for seasoning

Pre-heat the oven to 190C (Fan oven 170C)
Season the Pheasant with salt and pepper, inside and outside
Insert the half lemon and the fresh Thyme inside the cavity.
Use a small amount of the butter to grease a roasting-rack (to prevent sticking)
Smear the skin of the bird with butter
Cover the breast of the bird with the bacon rashers (this will prevent it drying out too much)
Place the bird on the rack in a suitable roasting-tin.
Pour the wine into the roasting-tin
Add the Juniper berries
Cook in the oven for 55 - 60 mins, until the juices run clear

Meanwhile, make the Bread Sauce (can be done in advance, and reheated,  if required)

Soften the diced Shallot in the butter in a small pan over a low heat. Do not allow the shallot to colour-up.
Push the Cloves into the peeled onion and put it into the pan and add the milk, salt and pepper and the Bay leaf
Simmer very gently for 15 minutes

Add the breadcrumbs and stir well. Simmer for a further five minutes.
If the sauce is too thick, adjust it by adding more milk. You are aiming for a thick but easily spoonable consistency
Remove the Bay leaf and the onion
Decant the sauce into a suitable jug

When the Pheasant is cooked...
Remove the bird onto a carving-board and allow to stand, covered with foil, for approx. 10 minutes, while you make the Jus.

To make the Jus (aka Gravy)
Melt the remaining butter (approx. 20g) in the cooking juices and wine (if it hasn't all evaporated)
Add about 250ml beef stock
Bring to the boil and cook for about two minutes, stirring constantly
If the resulting gravy is too thin for you, add a little slaked cornflour.
Strain through a sieve into a jug

Carve and serve the Pheasant
It's best not to be too fussy with carving. Remove the legs first, then cut the two breast portions off in one piece each. Don't try to carve them into slices, just serve them whole.

Serve, accompanied by whatever vegetables you fancy, along with the Bread Sauce and the gravy!

My chosen accompaniments were home-grown Brussels Sprouts, carrots and matchstick potato chips:

Oh, and don't forget to drink the remainder of the bottle of wine...

On a completely unrelated subject....
Thank you to everyone who has commented on my post Where have all the Veg-Plots gone? This is shaping-up to be one of my most popular posts ever! It is nice that so many of you have seen fit to comment on it. I sincerely hope to be having "conversations" with not only you, the commenters, but also the writers of some of the blogs you have suggested to me.


  1. Pheasant is something I've never tried but yours does look appetising and beautifully moist.

  2. I haven't tried it either but the food on your plate looks very tempting! The home-grown vegetables make it more so!

  3. It looks lovely, they sell pheasant at a local farm shop. I might have to send Mike out for one soon for a nice Sunday lunch.

  4. I've never heard of bread sauce before. I haven't seen pheasant around here, but my dad used to hunt them when I was growing up. Not raised ones, but real wild ones. I don't remember at all what they taste like though.

  5. Another who has never had pheasant.

  6. Add me to the never tried pheasant before list; a meal fit for a king, that is!

  7. Hmm. I have two pheasants in the freezer. Might give me some inspiration!

  8. Looks and sounds delicious! I've only had pheasant once before when the hunters that hunted on our farm property (mainly for venison) gave us some extras. Here it's just regular wild pheasant they hunt ... definitely strange that they release captive-bred.


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