I was kindly invited to join the circle of beaters at Lyon’s Head Farm this season. Most Thursdays are spent roaming undergrowth, hillsides and forested areas close to Piddletrenthide near Dorchester. Actually it is a very slick operation with 4 lieutenants with radio walkie-talkies and an additional 15-20 foot soldiers forming inpenetrable lines that sweep the areas, known as drives, flushing out the wonderfully noisey and colourful birds. Honestly, I have never seen such beautiful October landscapes, gently illuminated by low breaking sun through misty horizons.
Although the gregarious pheasant is commercially bred it is still considered a game bird. It is also the most hunted game bird in the Britsh Isles. The official season is from October 1st- Febuary 1st. These particular birds are comical to watch as they negotiate the undergrowth trying to outwit us with their limited capacity. They are in prime condition, plump and in good health. They make excellent eating. Join our Festive Four course to learn more…
As with most game we expect the meat to be a little stronger in comparison to the popular white meats we are used to. It is not only, extremely lean and good for us but has enjoyed a wild life of liberty. They can be hung for a few days to mature the ‘gamey’ taste or eaten on the day for a slightly milder flavour. The legs are perfectly edible but contain very little meat. The best cooking method is slow roasting or using the French method of confit. If roasting the bird on the bone (whole), where there is more flavour, pluck the feathers leaving the skin intact to prevent over drying in the oven. Generally it is the breast meat that is prized and this can be removed using a number of quick and easy methods. Without the skin you must judge the cooking time to perfection and baste regularly to achieve a succulent result. Alternatively use Purbeck Larder smoked pork belly (streaky) to prevent the breast becoming dry. In week 2 of the Festive Four cookery course we take a look at boning, stuffing and roasting a chicken, pheasant and pigeon.
Makes 1-2 jars
- 225g (8oz) cranberries
- 100ml (5 fl oz) water
- 50-75g (2-3oz) sugar
- Zest & juice, 3 Clementines
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves or cinnamon
- 50 ml port
- 2-3 tbsp maple syrup
- 1. Place the cranberries, water, sugar, Clementines and spices in a small pan and cook until the cranberries ‘pop’. As the cranberries break down drive off any excess liquid until the sauce thickens.
- 2. Add the port towards the end of cooking with the maple syrup. Check the sweetness adding more sugar as necessary. Cool slightly before decanting into steralised jars. Allow to settle and mingle for a couple of weeks before eating. Store for up to 6 months in the refrigerator.
Use on the side with turkey, chicken or pork. Try this spiced version above with guinea fowl or pheasant. A little of the sauce can also be added to roast gravy before serving. Left over cranberries can be cooked with a little water and sugar to make a gorgeous compote perfect with a steamed white chocolate and pistachio pudding.
White Pepper’s Top Tip: Start with half the sugar. You can adjust the sweetness at the end. Frozen cranberries are perfect for this recipe as the freezing process will partially breakdown the fruit giving a better flavour.