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Pheasant, bacon and prunes

Pheasant is a delicious game bird if carefully cooked, but it often ends up a little on the dry side. Combining it with some fatty bacon is a great way to remedy that. The luscious prunes add a third enriching element.

Method

Preheat the oven to 150 C/Gas 2. Place a flameproof casserole dish, large enough to take both pheasants, over a medium heat. Add the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Then add the onions, garlic, and thyme and bay leaves, if using, and cook for about 10 minutes until the onions are soft and slightly golden.

While the onions are cooking, place a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the rest of the olive oil. When hot, add the bacon and fry for about 5 minutes until it takes on some colour, then tip into the casserole with the onions. Increase the heat a little under the frying pan. Season the pheasants all over with salt and pepper, add to the frying pan and cook for about 5 minutes, turning often, until well browned on all sides.

If you're using the brandy (which gives a lovely richness), you must be extremely careful, as you need to flamb it to burn off the alcohol which causes it to flare up spectacularly - the flame can be pretty high! If using, warm the brandy in a small pan, set it alight and pour over the pheasants. When it dies down, transfer the pheasants and any pan juices to the casserole.

Deglaze the frying pan with a little of the wine - pour into the hot pan and let it simmer while you scrape up any tasty bits stuck to the bottom. Trickle this wine over the pheasant, then pour in the rest of the wine and 250ml water. Add the prunes. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook in the oven for 1 hours.

Remove the birds from the pan and place on a large board or carving tray. Carve the birds (or simply joint them into thigh, drumsticks and chunky breast portions) and divide between warm plates. Spoon over the bacon, prunes and cooking juices. Serve with mash.

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Ingredients

  • A knob of butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 4 sprigs of thyme (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves (optional)
  • 300g thickly sliced streaky bacon, or pancetta, cut into thick strips
  • 2 oven-ready pheasants
  • 1 small glass of Calvados or brandy (optional)
  • 400ml white wine
  • 200g prunes
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

This recipe is taken from...

Hugh’s Three Good Things

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