Raymond Blanc’s roasted pheasant, pear and pumpkin, with a pear and vanilla purée

For 4 people

Planning ahead

The pheasant, pears and pumpkin may be cooked before the starter, left in a warm place and reheated. The purée may be made a day or two in advance. The lettuce parcels may be made one day before.

Ingredients

2 pheasants, weighing
800g-900g each, oven ready
50ml groundnut oil
20g butter
200g (peeled weight)

pumpkin (approximately
a quarter of a pumpkin) cut into small wedges
2 large pears cored but not peeled, each cut into six
Salt and pepper

For the sauce

100ml water
200ml brown chicken stock
50g butter

For the pear and vanilla purée

2 large pears, approximately
500g peeled weight, roughly chopped
Juice of half a lemon
30g butter
Half a vanilla pod

For the lettuce parcels

1 small iceberg lettuce
20g butter
Freshly grated nutmeg

Method

Cooking the pheasant, pears and pumpkin. Preheat the oven to 190˚C/ 375˚F/Gas 5. Heat a large frying pan or roasting tray with the groundnut oil until it reaches smoking point. Add the pheasants, brown for two minutes on each thigh, then for two minutes on each breast. Add the butter, pumpkin and pears to the pan. Turn the pheasants onto their backs in the preheated oven. Roast for 30 minutes, turning everything after 15.

Remove the pheasants, pumpkin and pears from the pan. Place the pheasants breast down on a flat dish with the pumpkin and the pears in a warm place.

Pour the fat from the pan and add the water and brown chicken stock. Scrape the caramelised juices off the bottom of the pan, then transfer to a saucepan and boil to reduce by
a third. Set aside until needed.

Making the pear and vanilla purée

In a medium saucepan, mix together the pears, lemon juice, butter and vanilla pod. Cook slowly until the pears are soft, approximately 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla pod, but scrape out the seeds and add them to the mixture. Purée all in a food processor until smooth. Set aside.

Making the lettuce parcels

Remove the large outside leaves of the lettuce and blanche them for 30 seconds in boiling salted water. Refresh in iced water, and lay them flat in absorbent kitchen paper. Shred the heart of the lettuce finely. Heat the butter in a medium frying pan. Fry the shredded lettuce for two minutes until soft. Season well with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Leave to cool and then fill the lettuce leaves with this mixture. Fold over into a parcel, joins down, and set aside.

Serving

Heat the pheasants, pears, pumpkin and lettuce parcels together in a large dish in a medium oven. While these are heating, warm through the pear purée and the sauce, finishing the sauce by whisking in the 50g of butter. Serve the pheasants, pumpkin and lettuce parcels together, and the sauce and the purée separately.

Variation

You could roast guinea fowl instead of the pheasant.

Angela Humphreys’ Fen pheasant

‘In the Fens, we grow onions, celery, leeks, carrots, apples and potatoes and, as one of the last havens of truly wild pheasants, we may claim to live off the fat of the land. This recipe is for
a cock pheasant with a few miles under its belt, usually distinguishable by its large size and long spurs; save young, tender hen pheasants for roasting.’

Ingredients

1 old cock pheasant
2tbsp oil
1 onion finely chopped
3 sticks celery chopped
2 carrots diced
2 dessert apples chopped
Game or chicken stock
1 glass red wine
2tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1tsp fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

Method

Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole and brown the pheasant all over. Remove it from the casserole. In the same oil, lightly fry the onions, celery, carrots, and apples. Place the pheasant breast down on the vegetables, add 1tbsp parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, red wine and enough stock to cover the pheasant. Heat to simmering point, cover and cook for 1½ hours or until the pheasant is tender, topping up with more stock if necessary. Remove the pheasant and, when cool enough to handle, take the meat off the bones.

Remove the vegetables and apple with a slotted spoon and purée them in a food processor. Blend the purée with the liquid in the casserole to make a creamy sauce. Return the meat to the pot and heat through gently. Adjust the seasoning if necessary, garnish with the rest of the chopped parsley and serve with red cabbage, and creamy mashed potatoes.

Angela Humphreys is the author of ‘Game Cookery’. Published by David & Charles, it has been in print for 24 years. She has also written the recipes for ‘Game Season’ by John Humphreys, illustrated with paintings by Rodger McPhail and published by Quiller

Elisabeth Luard’s Circasian pheasant

‘This is how the Georgians cook their pheasant, gaudy native of the Caucasus introduced to Britain by the Romans (who else?). The blonde beauties of Georgia were prized by the Ottoman Turks as much for their red-hot skills in the kitchen as their cool, blue eyes in the bedroom-which was bad luck if you were a gorgeous young thing who didn’t fancy cracking walnuts in the sultan’s harem. The dish can be prepared with any other game bird, particularly if it’s of uncertain age. Almonds or hazelnuts can replace the walnuts.’

Serves 4 or thereabouts

Ingredients

2 pheasants
1 onion, quartered
1 carrot, roughly chopped
A few parsley stalks
Salt and peppercorns
For the sauce
6oz freshly shelled walnuts
3oz white breadcrumbs
1 garlic clove, skinned and roughly chopped
1tsp ground cinnamon
Salt and pepper
To finish
1-2 tablespoons walnut or olive oil
½tsp ground chilli

Method

Wipe the pheasants and remove any stray feathers. Settle them in a roomy pan with the pot-herbs, salt, peppercorns and enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat, lid loosely and leave to simmer for about 1½ hours. Don’t let the pot return to the boil or the meat will be stringy. Remove the birds when perfectly tender. Skin and de-bone, cut the meat into bite-sized pieces and reserve. Return bones to the broth and bubble up until reduced to about a pint. Strain the broth and reserve.

Dry-roast the walnuts in a heavy pan for a few minutes, until lightly toasted-don’t let them burn (10 minutes in the oven will do the trick). Drop the nuts and the rest of the sauce ingredients into a food processor with a ladleful of the chicken broth. Process to a thick purée, then thin it with the remaining broth. Turn the pheasant pieces in the sauce, pile on a dish and trickle with the oil mixed with the chilli.

‘Recipes and Ramblings’ (Oldie Publications, September 2010)

Mark Hix’s pheasant curry

Serves 4

‘I was in Waitrose recently and came across boned pheasant thighs-perfect for a gamey curry, as the breasts would be too dry and the drumsticks pretty inedible due to their needle-like bones.’

Ingredients

20 or so pheasant thighs
4 onions, peeled and sliced
2 medium green chillies, deseeded and sliced
1tbsp ghee
1tbsp tomato purée
1 litre chicken stock; a good cube will do
1tbsp chopped coriander leaves

For the marinade

6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
50g root ginger, scraped and finely grated
A good pinch of saffron
200g thick yoghurt
4 cloves

For the spice mix

1tsp black peppercorns
The seeds from 12 cardamom pods
A small piece of cinnamon or cassia stick
1tsp cumin seeds
1tsp fennel seeds
1tsp ground turmeric

To garnish

2tsp melon seeds
1tbsp peeled pistachio nuts
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

Method

Mix all of the ingredients together for the marinade, then mix with the pheasant thighs, cover and marinade for an hour. Meanwhile, put all of the ingredients for the spice mix into a cast-iron frying pan and heat them over a medium heat for about 3-4 minutes, turning them regularly with a spoon until they’re lightly browned. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and coarsely grind the spices.

Melt the ghee in a thick-bottomed pan and gently cook the onions and chillies on a low heat with a lid on for 5-6 minutes, stirring every so often until soft. Add the spices, tomato purée and chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the pheasant and the marinade, cover and simmer gently for about 45 minutes, topping up with a little water if necessary. Take a ladleful of the sauce and blend it in a liquidiser until smooth and return it to the pan.

The pheasant should be tender now and the sauce quite thick; if not, continue simmering. Stir in the coriander and transfer to a serving dish.

To serve, mix the melon seeds, pistachios and shallots together and scatter on top. Serve with basmati rice.