Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Baked pheasant with figs and marsala sauce

Serves 4

Just in the same way that the mushrooms are out in force, the feathered game season has hit us hard and fast, with early offerings of pheasant. Some are saying it's a better grouse season than first expected, which bodes well for the next couple of months. I'm as strong an advocate for this whole seasonal eating malarky as I am a wearer of colourful socks, so its a bit of a passion of mine I guess. As much as I'm loving my current city posting in the States, I do miss getting out there with nature and finding my own dinner, little beats it. Even the youngest of pheasant can have quite a powerful aroma and gamey flavour, and is best paired with a strongly flavoured sauce. Caramelised figs cut through the richness in this dish, but you could also do the same with peeled and quartered apples and pears.

75g butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 oven-ready pheasants
250ml dry white wine
2 garlic cloves, chopped
500ml good quality chicken stock
6 ripe firm purple figs, halved
2 shallots, chopped
1 tsp plain flour
250ml marsala
2 tblsp of flat leaf parsley, freshly chopped
Handful of toasted walnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Melt two thirds of the butter in a cast-iron casserole dish or roasting pan. Season the pheasants, then sauté in the butter on all sides until lightly golden. Add the wine, garlic and chicken stock and roast in the oven, cooking the birds for 20 minutes on each side. Remove the birds and keep warm. Strain the cooking liquor, then boil until it has reduced by half.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a frying pan and cook the figs, cut-side down, for 2-3 minutes without turning, until lightly caramelised. Remove the figs, reserving the butter, and set aside.

Add the shallots to the pan and sauté for 8-10 minutes until soft and golden. Sprinkle over the flour, then gradually stir in the marsala. Bring to the boil and reduce by two thirds.

Stir in the remaining cooking liquor and any juices from the pheasants. Cook for about 5 minutes until you have a smooth sauce. Add the figs to the sauce, then simmer gently for 3 minutes. Check for seasoning and stir in the parsley. Carve the pheasant, pour the sauce over and sprinkle with the walnuts. Serve with fried polenta or mashed potato.


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