Mark Hix is a celebrated food writers and restauranteur. A lucky conversation with a fishmonger resulted in his appointemnt as ead chef at Le Caprice. He then spent 17 years as chef-director of Caprice Holdings.
Preparing your bird
Take your pheasant and place it on a chopping board with the breasts facing up. With a sharp knife, remove the legs by pulling them away from the breasts and cutting at the joint. Next, remove each of the breasts by carefully cutting either side of the central breast bone with a sharp knife and running it down the carcass, following the bones until the breast is free from bones. Divide the drumstick and thigh by simply cutting through the joint. Put the breasts to one side for the second dish and the carcass, drumsticks and thighs for the first.
Pheasant on toast with chanterelles Serves 4
You can serve this as a simple starter or snack. You can also use any seasonal game birds, such as grouse, wild duck, widgeon, pigeon or partridge. This is a perfect time of year for chanterelles, and this inconsistent weather makes perfect foraging conditions.
2 pheasant breasts
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped 1 clove of garlic,
peeled and crushed
duck or game bird livers
2 tbspn sherry
100g–120g chanterelles Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Handful of small salad and herb leaves, prepared and washed
4 slices of white or brown bread,
cut 1cm thick from a small bloomer-style loaf
For the dressing
1tbspn of sherry vinegar mixed with 3tbspn of walnut oil
Cut the livers into even-sized pieces and dry them on some kitchen paper. Heat a good knob of butter in a frying pan and briefly fry the shallots and garlic for a minute or so without colouring.
Season the livers and add to the pan and continue to fry on a medium heat for 2–3 minutes, stirring every so often. Stir in the sherry, then remove from the heat. Chop the liver mixture by hand or in a food processor as finely or as coarsely as you wish, tasting and seasoning again if necessary.
Heat the rest of the butter in a small, heavy frying pan, season the pheasant breasts and cook them on a low heat for 3–4 minutes on each side, basting regularly and keeping them nice and pink. Remove from the pan, leaving the butter in the pan, and transfer to a plate. Toast the bread on both sides, then spread with the liver mixture.
Slice and arrange the pheasant breasts and place on top of the liver mixture. Meanwhile, reheat the pan and cook the chanterelles on a high heat for about a minute, stirring as they’re cooking, and season. Toss the salad leaves in a little of the dressing.
Place the toasts in the centre of each plate with the leaves arranged around and the chanterelles scattered around and on top. Spoon any extra dressing over them, too.
Pheasant and chestnut soup Serves 4
The drumsticks of a pheasant aren’t that pleasant to eat, but, together with the carcass, they really do make a great stock or soup or gamey gravy. You can add chanterelles to this soup or any wild mushroom come to that, such as ceps, hedgehog fungus or trompette de la mort. Out of game season, you can make exactly the same soup with a guinea fowl or chicken.
The legs and carcass from
1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small leek, roughly chopped and washed
A couple of sprigs of thyme
2 litres chicken stock
1 glass of white wine 40g butter
2–3tbspn double cream
2tbspn chopped parsley
Salt and ground black pepper
Chop the pheasant carcass into pieces with a heavy, sharp knife and put into a pot with the thighs and drumsticks, onion, leek, thyme, chicken stock and wine. Lightly season, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 40 minutes, skimming regularly.
Remove the thighs and put them to one side. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and stir in the flour over a low heat. Whisk the flour-and-butter mixture into the simmering soup, then continue to simmer for another 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 200˚C/gas mark 6. Score the chestnuts and place in a small baking tray. Cover with foil and bake for about 12–15 minutes, then remove and leave to cool. Peel away the skins and any brown inner skin, and cut each one into two or three pieces.
Strain the soup through a fine-meshed sieve into a clean saucepan and add the cream. Remove the meat from the thighs and drumsticks, ensuring there are no fine tendons from the drumsticks, and cut or flake the meat into bite-sized pieces. Add the chestnuts and the parsley to the soup and simmer for another five minutes, then add the meat and re-season if necessary and serve.