I happened across this recipe in a somewhat haphazard manner. Following a busy week saving a day from cancellation, an extra brace of pheasants was gratefully received following the salvaged shoot – a thoroughly enjoyable 102 bird day around the smaller drives of the Forthampton Shoot in Gloucestershire. The pheasants were hung for just a couple of days as I was trying to win around a couple of friends to the joys of eating game (yes, I really should find some new friends…) Aside from a conscious decision to marinate the meat in wine with herbs and garlic, the rest was inspiration from the kitchen as I went along.
Madeira is a classic partner of pheasant, so it just seemed right. The smoked bacon adds a depth of flavour and provides some nice fat to counter the pheasant’s natural leanness. If you can get hold of it, I would heartily recommend a jar of Cumberland Sauce – it really does work brilliantly with game and cold meats; however, if you can’t get your hands on it, a combination of redcurrant jelly and a drop of port (plus a splash of orange liqueur, if you have some handy) should make an adequate substitute.
Ingredients (serves 6-8)
- 8 pheasant breasts
- Smoked bacon lardons
- 2 medium onions, 2 sticks of celery, & 4 garlic cloves
- Red wine vinegar & Madeira to deglaze
- Bottle of red wine
- Chicken stock pot
- 2 parsnips and 4-6 carrots
- Dried mixed herbs, garlic granules, and salt & pepper
- Cumberland sauce & Worcestershire sauce
Preparation Time: 20 mins — Cooking Time: 2 hrs
- Begin by marinading the pheasant breasts overnight in red wine with garlic granules and dried herbs overnight. (You can replace the garlic granules with a couple of chopped cloves of garlic).
- Render the fat out of the lardons and fry until nicely cooked. Remove the lardons.
- Cut the pheasant into bite-sized pieces and dust in flour (with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper). Brown the pheasant in batches, using the rendered bacon fat. Remove the pheasant from the pan and keep to the side with the bacon.
- Thinly slice the onions and finely chop the garlic and celery. Soften the onions and celery in the pan, only adding the garlic once the onion is almost ready. The onions should be golden, not burnt! Add the meat back into the pan and deglaze with a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar and a slug of Madeira. Add approximately half a bottle of red wine and chicken stock pot (or stock cube – no need to water down into a stock, the wine will do that job). Season with salt and pepper and a good sprinkling of dried mixed herbs.
- Meanwhile, dice the parsnips and carrots and par boil.
- Mix up some of the left-over flour with a splash of water until you have a paste – work it until the lumps have gone. Then add this to the stew. It will help to thicken up the wine and give the whole dish a lovely unctuous consistency. Add the parsnips and carrots when ready. Allow to slowly cook for around 90 minutes.
- To finish, add a good sized tablespoon of Cumberland sauce (or a drop of port and some redcurrant jelly if you can’t get hold of it) and a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce. The former gives the dish a nice sweetness to offset the vinegar, whilst the latter adds a delectable savouriness to the dish.
It’s a hearty dish on its own, but if you want to serve it with a side dish, I find a green pea crush to be just the ticket. For this, cook up some floury potatoes and plenty of peas then crush them together with a dollop of crème fraîche and plenty of seasoning.
I’m just sorry I couldn’t provide a photo of the finished stew… It honestly didn’t last long enough, it was devoured in short-order.
EDIT… Have just made this stew again. Importantly, I remembered to take a photo: