Throughout an English winter, oven-ready pheasants are readily available in the markets or butchers’ shops. And because the birds are shot in great numbers (sometimes, we are told, even buried during a glut) pheasant meat is very reasonably priced.
Pheasants mainly consist of breast meat, with a little on the thighs and a worthless, tendony bit on the lower leg.
So cut off the breasts with a sharp knife (keeping the skin on if you feel like it) and pare away any upper leg meat.
Now hold the breasts between thumb and fingers to locate and extract any shot that may have lodged in the flesh.
Cook or freeze the meat, and pressure-cook the rest to make game stock for soups or stews.
Keep the small leg pieces for adding to stews or pies, and deal with the breast meat in the following way.
PHEASANT – FRIED
You will need:
One side of a pheasant’s breast for each person
Pepper and salt
Watercress for presentation (optional)
Heat a good quantity of olive oil and butter in a frying pan. Add a little pressed garlic.
Coat the breasts well with pepper and salted flour.
Very gently fry the breasts in the oil/butter mixture for 10 minutes on each side. Set them aside.
In the remaining oil/butter fry 2 finely chopped shallots until just browning.
Add sliced boiled potatoes until just browning.
Add the cooked pheasant breasts.
Heat all through and serve, garnished with a few watercress fronds if there are any at hand.
Note: Should you be given feathered pheasants, slice through the skin down the peak of the breast and peel back the skin with its feathers attached. Now cut off the breasts for this dish and throw the rest away.