Before I start, I have to be clear. I have nothing against hunting. We need hunting in our countryside to keep various animal populations in check. Also, I don’t have issue where there is an element of real skill and hunters are killing for the table. Having said all that….
We went to my better half’s parents’ house in Tipperary last weekend. The house overlooks Lough Derg. Just across from the house is an island. Brave men from the city pay big bucks to get in touch with their inner hunter by visiting the island and shooting pheasant. The pheasant are accustomed to people on the island and are pretty tame by local account. When groups of high paying city folk come down, dressed like country squires in padded green giléts and fresh green wellington boots to ‘hunt’, the beaters have been known to have difficulty getting the birds into the air to meet their fate. Pheasant are birds that prefer to run than fly from danger. On balance, the birds will have had a pretty good free range life on the island before the big guns arrive from the city. Despite the poor odds, numbers of the birds have even made it from the island to help populate the north Tipperary countryside.
To restate, I have no issue with hunting. I have done it myself. But I do find the behaviour of the big city hunters pretty pathetic, shooting tame birds that have to be shaken off the boots of the beaters.
While I was preparing it, I was reminded of the old tongue twister. Say it out loud as fast as you can…
I’m not the pheasant plucker,
I’m the pheasant plucker’s son.
I’m only plucking pheasants
‘til the pheasant plucker comes…
Now on to the ingredients:
- 1 wild pheasant
- 1 cooking apple
- Dried cranberries
- A generous tablespoon of redcurrant jelly
- Salt and pepper
- Vegetables to accompany
- 2 onions for the onion in red wine reduction
- Some of the wine that you will serve with the dish. I recommend something earthy and robust as the pheasant has a strong flavour despite its small size. I used my last bottle of Chateau Haut Gléon, bought a few years ago while in the South of France.
I adapted a recipe from James Whelan Butchers in Clonmel. I added dried cranberries and removed cream. I did this because I forgot the cream and had the cranberries.
Here’s what needs to be done:
Peel and slice the apple and mix it with the dried cranberries.
Stuff the pheasant with the apple and cranberries mixture.
Wrap the pheasant in buttered kitchen parchment.
Place the pheasant in a casserole and bake it in a 220 C oven for 50 minutes with the lid on. Take the lid off and open the parchment. Return to the oven and cook uncovered for another 10 minutes.
Remove the pheasant and scoop out the stuffing with a spoon.
Put this in a saucepan and add the redcurrant jelly.
Add some of the juice from the pheasant. (I needed to separate it from the fat after the roasting).
Reduce this until it becomes nice and thick.
For the onions:
Slice the onions and sweat them in a little olive oil for half an hour. Remove the lid and let them caramelise a bit. Add half a glass of the wine and reduce this down too.
I served this with some wonderful mashed Golden Wonder potatoes, baked carrots, and parsnips that were fresh out of the ground. It was a very pleasant pheasant indeed.
As ever, my plated dish looks pretty pathetic. I have to work on that.
You can see that the pheasant came of the worst of the encounter. Now, where did I leave the Mother-In-Law’s stuffed one?