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This lovely dish materialised from the desire to clear out the freezer.  We had two pheasants from the last season that needed scoffing and also last Autumn’s plums from the tree in our neighbour’s garden that I still hadn’t done anything with. It seemed like a match made in heaven and, with Molly’s Uncle Harry coming for the weekend, I had the perfect excuse to have a crack at doing something a bit different.

Essentially the plums are layered in the bottom of a casserole dish with some spices and garlic, pheasants are popped on top (breast down, wrapped in bacon) and it casseroles in a very low oven for a spell.  You then work on the sauce once the pheasants are cooked and removed from the dish.

Served with roasted butternut squash and steamed leeks (what we had left from the veg box), the end result is surprisingly light.  We had lots of lovely plum sauce leftover which has been popped back in the freezer and will go well with just about anything.

(This recipe was adapted from one originally found on www.cottagesmallholder.com)

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Ingredients:

  • 2 pheasants
  • Halved, stoned plums (mine were pre-frozen.  I think about 500g worth)
  • Large chunk of peeled cooking apple for stuffing into cavity of each bird
  • Streaky smoked bacon (enough to cover the breast of each bird – about 4 slices each)
  • About 8 juniper berries
  • 1/2 tsp of allspice
  • 1 tblsp of ground coriander
  • 1 star anise
  • A couple cloves of garlic, whole (skins on to go in casserole)
  • For taste correction at the end: Salt and pepper, honey/sugar/red current jelly (something sweet – I used honey), a little concentrated stock if desired (I used about a quarter of a Knorr beef stock pot)

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 140 degrees celsius
  2. Brown the pheasants lightly in a frying pan, turning as you go so all sides are browned. During the browning crack on with preparing rest of the casserole as below
  3. Layer the plums on the bottom of a large, heavy based casserole dish (one that has a lid) and scatter with the garlic and spices
  4. Once the birds are roughly browned, remove from pan and insert a large wedge of cooking apple into each bird.  Wrap the breasts in bacon and place breast down on top of the plums
  5. Cover with foil, then the lid and place in the middle shelf of the oven for an hour
  6. After the hour, check the birds haven’t overcooked.  At this stage of the cooking, the birds needed 15-20minutes more so I removed the foil and lid, removed the bacon from the breasts, and placed bacon on the top of the birds to crisp up a little in the oven, uncovered.
  7. After this time, removed the birds and placed in a warm place to rest.  Meanwhile, the pot was placed on the hob on a low heat to reduce and to work on the sauce.  The sauce was still a little sharp and thin so I added the following to correct sauce, tasting as I went: 1/2 teaspoon a sugar, 2 short squirts of runny honey, pepper, about quarter-half Knorr beef stock pot (or any other concentrated stock option, ideally home made of course :)