Yorkshire pheasant meat is lean, gamey, and very tasty. The birds are at their best in the middle of season, around November-December, and hen birds the most tender. Roast pheasant is very good but I find the leg meat can be dry and tough, so I prefer to cook with just the breasts. During the season I get as many breasts as I can get my hands on and freeze them as I like to eat pheasant not just during the winter months. This braised dish is creamy, rich and tasty, with the sweetness of the tawny port, and the smokiness of the pancetta nicely complimenting the gaminess of the pheasant. Serves 4.
- 4 pheasant breasts (young hen breasts if possible as they are the most tender)
- 20 rashers, lightly smoked pancetta
- 300ml chicken stock
- 200ml Tawny Port
- 5 shallots
- knob of butter
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 30g plain flour
- 100ml reduced fat crème fraîche
- 330g chestnut mushrooms, cleaned and quartered.
Note: A flat oven-proof dish with a lid is best to cook this dish. I use a small steel paella pan with a lid.
- Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
- Butter the pheasant breasts and then wrap in the pancetta - about 5 rashers per breast. The easiest way is to lay out the rashers on a food preparation board, so they slightly overlap, and are aligned vertically towards you. Then place the breast at the top end and roll-up the rashers and breast towards you.
- Place in an oven-proof dish (so that they aren't too cramped together) and then pop in the oven for 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, thinly slice the shallots and cook very slowly in a little butter until soft. Then add the caster sugar and continue to cook until lightly caramelised. Remove from the heat and cool for a few minutes.
- Sprinkle the flour over the shallots and mix well so that all the shallots are coated with flour.
- After 25 minutes reduce the oven temperature to 170C/325F/Gas 3.
- Pour the tawny port and most of the chicken stock over the pheasant breasts, then carefully mix in the flour and shallot mixture to the liquid. Save a little stock in case the dish needs topping up later.
- Cover with a lid or tin foil, and return to the oven for another 60 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms about 45 minutes into the cooking time.
- Check the pheasant breasts during the cooking time to ensure that they do not dry out and add more stock if necessary.
- To finish the sauce, remove a little of the sauce from the pheasant pan and add the crème fraîche and mix well. Return this to the pan mix well and cook for another 10 minutes.
- Once ready to serve, you can either serve each breast whole or slice each breast into about five slices and place on the plate still in the shape of the whole breast.
- Pour the sauce over the meat and serve with steamed green vegetables and a nice creamy potato mash to soak up the sauce.