The island of death – not very plucking pheasant.

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.

This one is not as wild as it looks. I ‘borrowed’ a stuffed pheasant from the Mother-In-Law’s sitting room. If she finds out, she will flitter me!

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.

To prove my open-mindedness on the subject, I got my hands on a wild pheasant and while staying in Tipperary, I prepared Roast Pheasant with Apple, Cranberry and Redcurrant Jam.

Most of the ingredients. You can see that the vegetables are as fresh as they get.

I served it with an onion and red wine reduction and some fantastic vegetables that we bought in the Milk Market in Limerick City. More about that in another post.

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.

My last bottle! We will have to head down to Corbiers again, when and if the recession ends.

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.

The little pheasant, stuffed with apple and cranberries, seasoned and ready to roast.

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.

After 50 minutes wrapped and covered, followed by 10 minutes uncovered. Looks tasty!

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.

It doesn’t look like much but the pheasant meat is very tasty and very filling.

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.

Not the best looking photo – AGAIN! Tasted pretty spectacular though.

As ever, my plated dish looks pretty pathetic. I have to work on that.

The proof is in the eating, as the old saying goes. Not much left for picking.

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?

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Latest comments
  • Boooh, big city hunters. The birds are so beautiful… though, the dinner looks really good too!.. I’m a total hypocrite – cannot kill them, but surely can gobble!

  • I agree about the hunters(that’s not sport) and I like your tongue twister 🙂

  • Great blog Conor, did you draw the pheasant yourself?

    • Damn, Brian, you have exposed my weasel writing. I bought it in Fenlon’s in Stillorgan dressed and ready to cook. Then I drove it to Tipperary for the ‘shoot’ if you will pardon the use of the word.

      • Looks really delicious. Mine was very dry and tough!

  • Was your roasted pheasant still moist? They tend to dry out. It that the reason for the parchment paper? We found that our wild one’s legs were unbelievably tough and unchewable; they seemed to be all ligament and no muscle… The dinner looks lovely, especially those wonderful Irish vegetables…

    • It was a bit dry in the breast. The legs were a little bit chewy. The apple and cranberry reduction brought it together in a great way. Next time, perhaps a lower oven and less time.

      • Yeah, wild pheasant legs really need to be braised, you’re probably better off cutting them off and cooking separately so you can concentrate on getting the breast roasted pefectly. I normally do pheasant medium rare (or if you have a meat thermometer: 57C).

  • Great looking rustic dish. The rhyme brings to mind one of my father’s favourites, which he would recite when bored (usually in a traffic jam on the way to Cornwall for a ‘holiday’):
    ‘The cat crept into the crypt,
    And then crept out again’.

    • Brilliant. Crypt creeping crapping cats.

  • Send me the leftovers, it looks really delicious 🙂

  • Great post, I agree, driven shoots are not pleasant affairs, an excuse to swig brandy from a hip flask and wave a gun around. I wonder how many birds they would bag on a snipe shoot on the bogs of Kerry. No more pheasant til November, you did them justice.

  • Hunting as you describe it in your blog reminds me of those roadside places where you can go fishing. Pay $25 to drop your line into a “pond” of farmed fish! Give me the open sea! All looks really tasty! Love pheasant! BTW – a bit of oil on the skin helps keep the moisture in, and that would work beautifully as the apples and cranberries steam inside the bird!

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