Braised pheasant with whisky sauce and pearl barley pilaf
- December 2015
- Serves 4
- Hands-on time 1 hour, oven time 1½ hours, plus soaking
Celebrate in-season game meat with this recipe for braised pheasant, a creamy whisky sauce and a mushroom and pearl barley pilaf.
- 53g (22.3g saturated)
- 47.6g (6.2g sugars)
- 2 prepared plump pheasants (800-900g)
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 125g smoked British free-range back bacon, cut into thin strips
- 150g finely chopped shallots
- 25g unsalted butter
- 1 large fresh thyme sprig, leaves picked
- 4 fresh bay leaves
- 5 tbsp whisky
- 150ml fresh chicken stock
- 2 tbsp double cream (optional)
- 1½ tbsp crab apple, cranberry or redcurrant jelly
- 1 tsp cornflour
For the pearl barley pilaf
- 20g dried mixed wild mushrooms
- 10g dried porcini mushrooms
- 40g dried cranberries
- 50g butter
- 75g finely chopped shallots
- 200g pearl barley
- 300ml fresh chicken stock
- 150g mixed wild or chestnut mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- 100g celery sticks, stems finely diced, leaves chopped
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh curly parsley
- Heat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/ gas 3½. Put all the dried mushrooms in a small bowl, then pour over 100ml boiling water. Put the cranberries in another bowl and do the same. Put a ramekin on top of each to keep the mushrooms and cranberries submerged, then soak for 1 hour. Drain, reserving the soaking liquid from the mushrooms, then roughly chop the mushrooms. Cover with cling film.
- Check the birds for shot (small pellets), removing any you find, then pull off any stray feathers. Season inside and out with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a cast iron casserole in which the birds will fit snugly side by side. One by one, brown the birds all over, then put onto a plate. Fry the bacon in the casserole until lightly golden. Add the shallots and butter, then fry for another 5 minutes or so until lightly browned. Stir in the thyme and bay leaves.
- Return the pheasants to the casserole, pour over 4 tbsp of the whisky and bring to the boil. Carefully set alight with a safety match/taper and shake the casserole on the hob until the flames have died down. Pour over the stock, bring back to the boil, then cover with a tight-fitting lid and put in the oven. Cook for 50 minutes, then check to see if the birds are done: pierce the thickest part of the leg with the tip of a knife to see if the juices run clear (or use a digital thermometer – it should read 65°C as the final temperature will rise to 70-75°C). You may need to cook the pheasants for 5-10 minutes longer. Remove and rest, covered, for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the pearl barley pilaf. Melt half the butter in a small flameproof casserole, add the shallots, cover and cook gently for 10 minutes. Stir in the soaked mushrooms and fry for 2-3 minutes without the lid. Stir in the pearl barley, mushroom soaking liquid, chicken stock and salt to taste. Bring to the boil, stir well, cover with a lid, then transfer to the oven. Cook for 25-30 minutes alongside the pheasant. Remove from the oven when cooked and turn off the heat.
- Melt the remaining butter in a frying pan, add the chopped fresh mushrooms and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes. Season, then stir into the pilaf with the celery, celery leaves, parsley and cranberries. Cover and keep warm in the oven.
- Lift the pheasants onto a board and cut off their legs (start pulling them away from the body, then cut through the joint). Slice off each breast whole, then halve, slicing diagonally. Put all the meat onto a serving plate, cover and keep warm in the oven.
- Strain the pheasant cooking juices, skim off and discard the excess fat, then return the juices to the casserole. Discard the bay leaves from the bits and pieces left in the sieve, then stir the bits into the pilaf. Add the remaining whisky, the cream (if using) and crab apple jelly to the strained cooking juices and boil rapidly until reduced and well flavoured. Mix the cornflour with 1-2 tsp water, stir into the sauce and simmer for 1-2 minutes until lightly thickened. Taste and season, pour the sauce over the meat, then serve with the pilaf.
The pilaf will keep in the fridge for up to 48 hours. Reheat on the hob with a splash of stock to serve.
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