This serves between 6 and 8 people, with veg, etc.
One thing I like to do is beating for a local shoot. It takes no great skill, as such, all you need to be able to do is follow instructions and make a noise when told to. Common sense, really. In the months before and just after Christmas there are shoots all over the UK needing people to beat for them (See the NOBS website). You get very little pay for your physical efforts – but the birds are worth the walk. Some (tight-arsed) shoots will just give you a brace (a pair; one cock bird and one hen) and some will permit you to take more. One shoot that I have regularly beaten for hands me 3 brace occasionally as well as the meagre pay. This makes the day well worth the effort. Of course, the birds do come with their coats on and their innards in place, but a quiet word with another of the beaters may get them to help you ‘process’ the birds quite quickly after being hung to let the meat mature for about 5-8 days.
Of course, you could learn how to do it and DIY.
I don’t fart about with plucking; I simply skin ‘em and gut ‘em. It’s quicker, easier and makes less mess. Anyway, as I normally harvest the breasts and casserole the rest, the skin is redundant.
Serving pheasant pie to your guests could be quite prestigious, so will really impress everyone with your abilities to survive and succeed. Of course, you mustn’t accidentally serve it to any extreme animal-rights/anti-hunt people, ‘cos that’s the way to get your sweetmeats squashed (look it up on the net).
Prep: 50-ish mins, but needs to be done the day before.
Cooking: 60 + 40 mins.
Course: Main (smallish)
Rating: 3: Moderate – it takes a long time to get everything ready,
but each stage is moderately easy.
- 1 brace pheasants
- 2 cans Campbell’s Chicken & White Wine condensed soup
- Frozen sweetcorn
- 1 pack puff pastry
- 2 onions
- 2 cloves garlic
- Mushrooms if you have them
- Provencal mixed herbs
- milk or eggwash for pastry top (see Tricks’n’Tips)
- Covered casserole dish
- Oven dish/pie dish bigger than you think you’ll need
- Take the two birds – skinned & gutted – and wash them under a running cold tap for a moment. Cut any great amounts of fat off and discard.
- Using heavy duty scissors cut the carcasses at their weak points to allow them to fit into a casserole dish or covered oven dish with lid and put some water/white wine in with them. Pop this into a medium oven (gas 4) for about an hour or so to cook. You will be taking the meat off the carcass later so it does need to cook through.
- After that time, take the meat out and place onto a plate to cool to a temperature at which you can separate the meat from the bones without burning your fingers (see Tricks’n’Tips for taking meat off a poultry carcass).
- Whatever you do, don’t allow any bones to end up in the meat. The lead shot by which the birds met their fate will normally not be a problem, but the bones and/or the end of bone cartilage will be.
- Pour the cooking liquid into a bowl to cool and then place it in the fridge to let the fat solidify properly on the top. The following day, just take the fat from the top of the stock, putting it into cling film/foil or a yoghurt pot to discard it, putting the jellified stock by for now. You’ll need it later.
- To assemble the pie, just roughly slice and fry the onions and garlic until translucent and line the bottom of the pie dish with them. Pop a few sliced/quartered mushrooms in as well.
- Scatter the herbs and frozen sweetcorn on the onions and then lay on the pheasant meat in large chunks.
- Heat the contents of the two cans of soup, together with some white wine or water and the stock from below the fat in the bowl and pour over the contents of the pie dish, taking the fluid level to just below the edge of the dish. Season as necessary.
- Roll out the puff pastry (or buy it ready-rolled, like I do) and lay it on top of the dish (see Tricks’n’Tips), crimping the edges against the dish to make a tight seal.
- Pierce a few vent holes in the lid, cut out and lay on some fancy pastry shapes for decoration (if you are artistic) and give it an eggwash or a milkwash ( see Tricks’n’Tips) to make it brown attractively.
- Place it in the oven at about gas 5 for 40 mins, or until the pastry is golden brown and risen a treat.
- Serve with whatever veg you have. This pie goes well with rustic accompaniments, so forget about serving poncy baby sweetcorn or mange tout. For this we need chunky carrots, sautéed leeks (or roast veg) and jacket potatoes.