Fagiano al vino rosso

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Pheasant…red wine….game set and match!

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The Italians love game…especially the northern folk….I love game…and I’m northern….so it is not just for the posh folk! A lot of people shy away from cooking this wonderful bird..or partridge…or quail….they are so succulent and rich…and so good for your health! And these pheasants go a long way! You will be surprised, if you have never had them, how much meat they render. One pheasant is perfect for two people. If you have never cooked them…please….please do…and they are so the right thing for this time of year.

FOR 4

2 pheasants

Fresh rosemary sprigs or a good tablespoon of dried 

2 garlic cloves peeled

60gm butter

Olive oil

3 stalks of celery cut into finger long pieces

4 long shallots cut in half lengthways

4 Chantenay or small carrots halved lengthways

150 gm of pancetta cut into pieces

6 mushrooms of choice cut into rough chunks

A bottle of decent red wine

Preheat the oven to 160c. Season the cavity of each bird with salt and black pepper and pop in half rosemary and a garlic cove into each.  

Melt the butter and about 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large casserole pan. Brown the birds on all sides and then put to one side. Add the celery, mushrooms, pancetta and shallots to the hot oil and fry for ten minutes. Season with salt and pepper. 

Pour in two thirds of the wine and bring to a simmer. Pop the birds back in quite carefully, breast side down. Cover and cook in the oven for 30 minutes. Turn the birds over and cook for a further thirty minutes. You could quite happily leave them in the oven on a very low heat now whilst you mingle, open wine or dance with a friend.

If not….Turn off the heat, remove the birds to a warm plate and you can wither thicken the juice with flour or leave, as i did, You could also stir in some double cream if you fancy. Tis up to you.

Cut the birds in half and place on plates. I served them with creamy, mustardy mash potatoes, with the sauce and vegetables from the casserole drizzled over. 

A fabulous winter warmer of a meal. Supper by the fire. A pleasant pheasant experience!

Dodgems, rabbits, balls and pheasants…

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It has been a manic week at work – out most evenings and all day yesterday – then a ball last night until the wee small hours. Having danced myself silly, had a ride on a carousel and then a go on the dodgems – it was some ball – I collapsed into a welcoming bed at I don’t know what time. But here I am now bright eyed and bushy tailed – sort of. Whilst I am on the subject of dodgems – it seems odd to want to go on this ride in order to miss other cars! So, we all just merrily crashed into each other – far more satisfying! Earlier in the day I went to a magnificent jamboree with a wide range of food vendors. I was particularly fascinated by one local company who were offering pheasant biryani – in fact they did lots of odd game combinations. No rabbit burgers though….I do like rabbit I must say…I do a dish that a neighbour of mine in France used to cook, rabbit in champagne – though she used a simple and inexpensive sparkling Saumur. Here is my version.

Rabbit in a Champagne Dijon Mustard Sauce

1 rabbit jointed – call me a chicken, fine, but I’m a coward when it comes to rabbit, I get my butcher to do this! / 1 whole onion / 1 clove of garlic / 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard / 2 oz of butter  / 1 pint of vegetable stock  / 1 bay leaf  / Squeeze of lemon juice / 1 pint of extra thick double cream / 1 pint of champagne or cava or any decent fizz /  Chopped parsley  / Salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5. Chop the onion and garlic finely and sauté with the jointed rabbit in butter until the meat is golden brown. Add the Dijon mustard and the champagne and reduce to half over a high heat. Add the vegetable stock, bay leaf and lemon juice. Transfer the contents into a casserole dish and place in the oven for 30 minutes or until juices are reduced to half. Remove the dish from the oven and set over a hob on a low heat. Add the cream and the chopped parsley, and continue to stir well until the sauce comes to the boil. Needs little accompaniment other than crusty bread and a green salad really.

Finally for the moment, I was chuffed to see that the last recipe I offered you – cordero al chilondron – has just appeared in a super cook book our work has just produced for charity. A top wine company, Berry Bros. & Rudd, even matched a wine with it – they wrote as follows – ‘This is a real slice of Spain – all the Spanish flavours are in this warming lamb braise. Strong rustic flavours need strong wine. Rioja would be an easy match but I would prefer something from Spain’s agricultural interior. 2009 Piedra Azul from Toro. High up on the central mesa, almost on the Portuguese border. Tinto de toro is the local synonym for Rioja’s famous tempranillo grape.‘ Anyway, you get the picture  – the wine expert rattles melliflously on for another paragraph in the way only these folk can. I loved it. Poetry in a glass, a sonnet on the plate.