Pheasant Stew

For best results start the preparations for this stew 24 hours in advance. There is nothing difficult about it but there is quite a lot to do and some parts of the preparations are time consuming. The most demanding job is jointing the birds so there is no wastage. I did it myself, halving the breasts and legs, ending up with 16 pieces. If you don’t fancy it, and I wouldn’t blame you, your butcher should be happy (through gritted teeth) to do it for you. The pieces are dusted with flour and quickly browned then added to onion, a hint of garlic, aromatic herb bundle, carrots and mushrooms with red wine and stock that you will make from the carcass. It is worth making stock; it’s relatively quick – about an hour – and imparts so much flavour. It will end up rich and gently gamey even if you cheat with a stock cube. I actually left my stew overnight in the cooling oven and amazingly, the Le Creuset dish I’d cooked it in was still warm in the morning. All it needed was a 20-minute reheat in the oven, 30 minutes extra if you want to add the dumplings I suggest, and a final parsley garnish. Phew. You’ll need mash or jacket potatoes and sprouts or cabbage.

Serves 4

Prep: 1 hour

Cook: 2 hours

2 pheasant

2 onions

few sprigs thyme

1 bay

herb bundle: 1 bay, few sprigs thyme, 1 sprig rosemary

200ml red wine

1 garlic clove

1 tbsp butter

3 tbsp vegetable oil

150g bacon lardons

300g closed cup mushrooms

320g regular or Chantenay carrots

4 tbsp seasoned flour

for the dumplings:

50g flour

50g chestnut flour

50g suet

pinch baking powder

25g cooked, chopped chestnuts

     Ideally, begin preparations 24 hours in advance. You are aiming to end up with 16 small portions of pheasant, removing the breasts in one swoop and cutting them in half. Jointing the legs. I remove the skin but that is a matter of taste. Place the carcasses and wing joint trimmings in a pan with 1 chopped unpeeled onion, few sprigs they, bay, pinch salt and few peppercorns and enough water to cover; at least 1 litre. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour. Strain. Meanwhile, place the pheasant in a mixing bowl and add the herb bundle and red wine. Cover and leave to marinate while the stock simmers and you get everything else organised. First make the dumplings (they aren’t essential but are a treat) by mixing all the ingredients with sufficient water – not much – to be able to form into balls. Place on a plate, cover with a stretch of clingfilm and leave somewhere cool. Now return to the stew. Halve, peel and slice the remaining onion in thin slices. Crack the garlic with your fist, flake away the skin and chop. Scrape and trim the carrots. Cut regular carrots into chunky pieces, leave Chanteney whole. Wipe the mushrooms to remove dirt, trim stalks if necessary. Melt the butter in 1 tbsp olive oil in a spacious, lidded Le Creuset-style casserole, stir in the onion, bacon and garlic and cook, stirring often, over a medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and herb bundle. Reduce the heat and leave to cook gently while you attend to the pheasant. Remove the pieces from the marinade. Pat dry, dust with seasoned flour and quickly brown in a frying pan, transferring to a plate as you go. Add pheasant to the casserole dish, strain the marinade over the top and add 400ml pheasant stock. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer as you tuck the carrots between the ingredients in the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cut a large piece of parchment and tuck in down over the food, leaving an overhang that can be caught by the lid. Trim the overhang to 2cm. Heat the oven to 170C and cook the casserole for 1 ½ hours. Turn off the oven and leave overnight in the fading heat of the oven. To serve, return to the oven (170C) for 20 minutes to heat through, add the dumplings, re-cover and cook for a further 30 minutes. Have whatever else you are serving with the stew ready to co-ordinate but the stew (and dumplings) can be kept waiting (covered). Enjoy.