The pheasant shooting season started at the beginning of October, bringing the availability of these handsome game birds back to our butchers until the end of January. Pheasants, although appearing quite large, are in fact mostly feathers, and you’ll find the bird, once plucked, is much smaller than any chicken.
This recipe for pheasant and chestnut pie makes a nod to Christmas, with the incorporation of cranberry and orange flavours making a deliciously rich sauce with tender, moist chunks of meat. The recipe is split into two halves, the first is the cooking of the meat and creation of the stock, and the second half is the assembly of the pie. The first part can be done in the morning to get ahead, as only takes a few minutes to prepare, cooking whilst you get ready. You can then assemble the pie later on, when you’re ready to cook dinner.
The rich flavours of the pie don’t need anything too complex to accompany it, so some simple boiled potatoes tossed in butter and mint and a green vegetable of your choice would be ample.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes for the stock + 45 minutes to bake
- 2 pheasants
- Vegetables to make the stock (carrot, onion, leek, celery)
- Herbs to make the stock (1 bay leaf, 10 peppercorns, 2tsp dried thyme)
- 50g butter
- 1 medium onion – chopped
- 200g chestnuts
- 25g plain flour
- 200ml red wine
- 1 orange – zest and juice
- 3 tbsp cranberry jelly (or sauce)
- 1 block pre-made puff pastry
- 1 egg – beaten
- The first step is to make the stock. Simply put the pheasants into a large saucepan and add all the vegetables and herbs for the stock. Fill with just enough cold water so that everything is covered, finally adding a large pinch of salt.
- Put a lid on a bring the pan to a boil and turn the heat down and simmer for 40 minutes.
- By this time the pheasant should be cooked. You can check by removing one of the birds and piercing a breast or leg – the juices should run clear. If you have time, leave the birds to cool in the stock, which keeps the meat extra moist.
- Strain the stock – you will need 600ml for this recipe, reserving the rest (suitable for freezing) for another time stock is required. Skim off any fat that has collected on the surface of the stock.
- The second part of the recipe is about assembly of the pie. If you haven’t had the time to leave the pheasant to cool completely in the stock, remove it from the liquid and leave to cool enough so that it can be handled. Remove all the meat, discarding the bones and the skin. Tear the meat into small pieces and place in a large pie dish.
- Melt half the butter in a large frying pan or shallow saucepan, then add the onions and chestnuts. Fry for 5 minutes or until just soft, then add to the pie dish with the pheasant.
- Now it’s time to prepare the sauce, but first pre-heat your oven to 200ºC. Using the same frying pan, melt the remaining knob of butter over a low-medium heat, then stir in the flour. Stir for about a minute to cook out the flour, then whisk in the 600ml of stock (reserved from earlier), the red wine and the juice of the orange until smooth. Cook over a medium-high heat until reduced by a third and thicker, stirring every so often.
- Whisk in the orange zest and cranberry jelly, until the jelly pieces have dissolved. Gently pour this sauce over the pie.
- For the pastry, roll out your puff (which should have been chilling in the fridge), into a square about 5 cm large than the size of your pie dish. Cut a thin strip (2.5cm wide) off two of the sides and use this to line the rim of the pie dish, then brush with a little cold water.
- Gently lift over the main square of pastry over the top of the pie. Cut a hole in the centre for the steam to escape, and pinch around the edges so that it is sealed in. Carefully cut away any overhanging pastry with a small, sharp knife.
- Brush all over with the beaten egg, then transfer to the oven and cook for 40 – 45 minutes or until puffed, crisp and golden. Serve with green veg.