This recipe and illustration comes from my
Simply British (1998) – see
Books. For more information about cooking pheasants turn to Read Now.
An excellent way to serve older birds. All forms of meat, game and fish have been
potted in Britain for centuries.
Delicately flavoured, they could be served as part of a cold table or
picnic, but were most popular as a savoury addition to the breakfast table in
the nineteenth century. Today, we tend
to eat them as an appetizer or light main course with lots of hot buttered
toast, although they make excellent sandwiches, especially when accompanied by
crisp lettuce, cornichons or roughly chopped capers.
Note: If pheasant is young, it can
be roasted in the ordinary way. The
flavourings can be altered to taste; for example, Mrs Rundell recommends
allspice mixed with mace, white pepper and salt, while Elizabeth David suggests
combining grouse or partridge with a quarter of its weight in ham, but it would
taste equally good with pheasant.
Serves a generous 4
2 oven-ready pheasants
6 sprigs thyme
1 lemon, halved
ground cayenne pepper
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Preheat the oven to fan
140C/gas 2. Wipe the pheasants clean
inside and out with a damp cloth. Place
3 sprigs of thyme along with half the lemon and some of the butter into the
cavity of each pheasant. Mix together a
large pinch of mace, nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper ad rub into each
bird. Arrange them in a casserole dish
with a tight-fitting lid and plaster the remiang butter all over their breasts
and legs. Cover and place in the centre
of the oven.
Bake for 2 hours, remembering to turn the birds on to each side every 30
minutes, liberally basting with the butter as you do so.
3 While the birds are cooking,
clarify some butter. Melt 340g/12oz of
butter in a saucepan over a low heat and line a small sieve with a double layer
of wet muslin or a clean, wet J-cloth.
Place this over a small bowl.
When the butter has thrown up a pale scum, gently pour the clear
golden-coloured liquid through the muslin, carefully leaving the milky dregs in
the saucepan. Set aside the strained,
clarified butter and discard the rest.
4 Once the
pheasants are cool enough to handle, pull away all the meat, discarding any
skin, sinews or fat. Place in a food
processor and give a few quick whizzes to chop the flesh into tiny pieces. Season to taste with some more mace, nutmeg,
cayenne, salt and pepper and add two-thirds of the melted clarified butter. Process once again, until the pheasant forms
a rough textured paste. Remove and pack
tightly into 4 small white ramekins.
Press the meat down with the back of a spoon to eliminate any air-holes,
then pour over the remaining butter, so that it forms a thin layer over the
pheasant. Chill and cover once the
butter is firm.
5 This is best left a day
before eating, so that the flavours will fully mautre. Keep in the
fridge and eat within 4 days.