‘I know autumn has arrived when the squashes and pumpkins appear. With all their different shapes and sizes and their many colours, from amber-oranges to gold and vermillion, they look beautiful piled up in a bowl in the kitchen. These root vegetables pair very well with game and, as most will last for weeks, you can keep them through the shooting season. I love the soft sweetness of butternut with pheasant.’
Chilli roasted pheasant crowns with butternut gnocchi
750g butternut, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks (2 medium-sized)
175g plain flour, plus a little more for rolling
75g Parmesan cheese, grated
1 red chilli, finely diced
A small handful of sage
leaves, finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 pheasant crowns (breast meat still attached to the breast bone with skin on)
A splash of olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
100ml chicken stock
25ml white wine
150g baby spinach
A squeeze of lemon
Grated Parmesan to serve
Preheat your oven to 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4. Put the butternut pieces into a roasting dish, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast until tender, about 45 minutes depending on the size of the chunks. Once cooked and cooled, use a stick blender to whizz into a purée. Add the flour, Parmesan, some seasoning and mix well. Next, take a handful of the mixture and use both hands to roll it into a sausage shape on a floured surface. Cut it at roughly 1in or bite-size intervals and repeat until you’ve used all of the butternut and you have a pile of gnocchi. At this stage, they will keep in an airtight container in your refrigerator for a few hours, so you could make them ahead of time.
In a bowl, mix the chilli, butter, sage leaves, garlic and some seasoning. Rub the mixture both under and on top of the skin of the pheasant breasts. Place the pheasant crowns, breast side down, in a hot and oiled pan to brown them. Then, transfer them to an ovenproof dish. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until cooked, and then allow to rest for 5 minutes.
Boil a large pot of water and add the gnocchi (in batches, if necessary) -when they float to the top, they’re cooked. Remove to a colander and drizzle with olive oil.
Add the splash of olive oil to a large frying pan, then the crushed garlic. Pour the chicken stock and wine over it. Allow to reduce slightly and then add the spinach. Once wilted, stir the cream through it and remove from the heat before putting in a squeeze of lemon. Add the gnocchi to the frying pan and mix well. At this stage, you could pour the spinach and gnocchi into an ovenproof dish and keep them warm in the oven until you’re ready.
Serve the pheasant breasts off the bone, surrounded by the gnocchi and spinach, with grated Parmesan.
More ways with butternut squash
Easy butternut and puy lentil soup
Put 500g peeled and deseeded butternut, four cloves of garlic, the leaves from two sprigs of thyme and 800ml chicken stock into a saucepan. Simmer until tender. Add seasoning and then use a stick blender to purée. Heat a microwaveable pouch of Puy lentils and divide them between four bowls before pouring the soup over them. Wrap slices of Parma ham around breadsticks, then serve with a scattering of thyme and a splash of single cream. Rest a Parma-ham breadstick on each bowl (and possibly have a few extra to hand).
Roasted butternut with Camembert
Vertically halve two small butternut squashes and remove the seeds. Brush olive oil all over them and place in a roasting tray. Pop a piece of Camembert into the hole of each half and then scatter slices of red chilli, torn sage leaves and seasoning over them. Roast in a moderately hot oven for about 45 minutes (depending on size). Serve with dressed salad leaves as a starter or vegetarian lunch.