Woodcock – Prince of Game

the prince of game

“The wood cock is the first on the list of gastronomical indulgences of the feathered tribe denominated ‘game’ not only from its aroma, but also from the succulence of its flesh, so prized by all who are judges of gastronomical excellence.
The woodcock is The Prince of game.”
From Sport and it’s Pleasures, Physical and Gastronomical by Herbert Byng Hall (1859).

Woodcock is a small wading bird, native to Britain, whose numbers are augmented in the winter by birds arriving from Northern Europe. It’s plumage is very similar to the smaller Snipe and a mottled grey reddish brown, like that of a female duck, which keeps it well camouflaged. The bird has a long tapering bill and short legs – it’s fatter and squatter than a snipe. The woodcock is mostly nocturnal, during the day it keeps to the cover of the undergrowth in woods and heaths, coming out at night to forage for beetles, caterpillars, earthworms, fly lava, spiders and even small snails. It nests on the ground, hidden by leaves, bracken and ferns. Again, like the snipe, the woodcock is notoriously difficult to shoot – it flies in an erratic zig-zag pattern, presumably to avoid birds of prey.

raw woodcock

I haven’t eaten woodcock for a very long time and was delighted to be offered one, by the Pheasant Girl last Sunday – she saved it for me especially! I wasn’t expecting to see one this late in the season and they are rare, being totally wild and very hard to shoot. Having eaten snipe recently, the size difference was quite noticeable. Snipe are small (25 – 27 cm from tail to the tip of the bill), whereas a good sized woodcock (33 – 35 cm) is similar in size to a partridge or pigeon. These birds are best roasted quickly and I thought I’d better serve it with a few special vegetable dishes to fully compliment it. Woodcock is often served with foie gras and truffles! I cooked all the side dishes first and kept them warm in the larger, lower oven, while I cooked the bird in the top oven – time is of the essence when cooking game and a few minutes too long can result in tough meat.

sprouts with bacon

Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and bacon (serves 2):

5 large Brussels sprouts
3 slices smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
4 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
a handful of chestnuts (peeled)
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Boil some Brussels sprouts for 5 minutes, before plunging them into cold water and patting them dry. Cut the sprouts into quarters and fry in olive oil with chopped smoked streaky bacon, a handful of chestnuts, chopped garlic and a sprinkling of salt and black pepper.

champiñones al ajillo

Champiñones al Ajillo (serves 2):

4 large chestnut mushrooms (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
a dessertspoon fresh parsley (finely chopped)
a teaspoon sherry vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Champiñones al Ajillo is a very popular Spanish tapa. Fry the chopped mushrooms in olive oil and when they start to release their juice, stir in garlic, parsley and a teaspoon of sherry vinegar (or lemon juice). Add salt and pepper to taste.

patatas

Patatas con pimentón (serves 2):

4 small potatoes (peeled and cubed)
1 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera picante
2 teaspoon goose fat
sea salt

Bring the potatoes to boiling before blanching in cold water. Pat dry and cook in smoking hot goose fat, until crispy. Sprinkle with hot smoked pimentón and sea salt while cooking.

basting

Roast Woodcock (16 minutes total cooking time):

1 woodcock (per person)
a teaspoon goose fat
a knob of butter
a slice of fried bread (per bird)
a drizzle of truffle oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper

Fry a slice of bread beforehand. It can be done in the oven while the potatoes are cooking, just drizzle it with olive oil on both sides and keep an eye on it. 30 minutes in a tray on a lower shelf should be about right.

Woodcock, like snipe, defecate when they takeoff and therefore can be eaten whole (they can also be cleaned like other birds if you wish). However, the gizzard and tongue are bitter, so are best removed beforehand. It’s customary for the bill to go through or under the legs.

roasted

I adhere to the the rule of which says small game birds should literally fly through the oven. For perfectly cooked, slightly pink succulent meat, I recommend no more than 8 minutes in a hot cast iron frying pan containing a knob of butter and goose fat – spoon the fat over the breast to brown it, plus 8 minutes in the oven at 230º C. Sprinkle on salt an pepper while cooking. Rest the bird in foil, breast down for up to 20 minutes afterwards.

jus

Jus:

a clove of garlic (finely chopped)
a cup of pheasant stock
a splash of sherry vinegar
a knob of butter

Using the juices left in the frying pan, add the garlic and cook for a few minutes before stirring in the stock and a splash of sherry vinegar. Reduce slightly and finish with a small knob of butter.

Serve with a drizzle of Spanish truffle oil on a slice of fried bread with the above vegetables and a glass of Ramon Roqueta Tempranillo. The woodcock brain is a delicacy, being white, soft and creamy – when you’ve eaten the bird, spread the giblets on the fried bread like paté.

The texture of woodcock is soft like partridge and the taste is similar to mild wood pigeon, delicate and unctuous at the same time. It’s been 20 years since I last tasted woodcock, (January 2nd, 2000 to be precise), I had forgotten just how good this bird really is – I could see myself ordering it as my last meal. Woodcock really is the prince of game!

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Pheasant and Leek Pie

pheasant and leek pie

I got the idea for a pheasant and leek pie via Scottish Cock-a-leekie soup, or cockie leekie (circa 1598), which probably came from a French chicken and onion dish. Old recipes included beef shin and prunes, but I thought a thickened version, minus cows and fruit, with pheasant as a substitute for chicken would taste good under pastry. You will note that I also dispensed with barley, which in my humble opinion is better suited to a broth.

browned pheasant

Using a cast iron casserole, brown a large pheasant in olive oil, to caramelise the sugars in the meat and skin.

Stock recipe:

1 large pheasant
6 pieces garlic (peeled and bruised)
3 leek tops
1 large carrot
1 stick of celery
a bouquet garni of 2 bay leaves and a sprig or two of rosemary, sage and thyme
10 black peppercorns
6 crushed juniper berries
olive oil
ground sea salt
2 pints water

poaching

When the pheasant is a nice golden colour, remove the olive oil and save for later. Fill the pot with the stock ingredients listed above – use the tops of the leeks for the stock and save the lower, better parts for the pie filling. Bring to the boil, skim off any scum, put the lid on and remove to a preheated oven at 150º C for 1 hour. Turn the bird half way through.

poached

When done, remove the pheasant and allow to cool. Strain the stock and throw away the depleted vegetables. When the bird has cooled, remove the meat from the skin and bones. Chop the pheasant up into bite sized pieces.

While the stock is cooking in the oven, make some pastry (recipe here) and allow it to chill in the fridge.

Pheasant and Leek Pie recipe (serves 4):

1 large pheasant (poached and chopped into bite sized pieces)
3 slices smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
3 leeks (sliced)
1 stick celery (chopped)
6 pieces garlic (finely chopped)
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 1/2 pints pheasant stock
2 large squirts anchovy paste
1 dessertspoon tomato purée
1 dessertspoon plain flour
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 heaped teaspoons French mustard
2 bay leaves
lots of cracked black pepper (to taste)
Sea salt if required
olive oil

bacon

Using the reserved olive oil, fry the chopped bacon until it goes crispy.

leeks

Add the leeks, which I sliced quite thin (about 5mm).

softened leeks

Cook the leeks gently for 20 minutes or so, until they become soft and sticky. Attentive stirring is required.

vegetables

Mix in the carrot, celery and garlic.

flour

After 5 minutes stir in the flour to make a roux.

stock

Pour on about 1 1/2 pints of stock and combine with all the remaining ingredients (except the pheasant) – mix well.

chopped pheasant

Finally add the meat and bring the dish up to a simmer. Put the lid on the casserole and remove to a preheated oven at 150º C for an hour.

casseroled

The casserole should have thickened up well, do taste and adjust the seasoning at this point.

filling

Allow the pie filling to cool before rolling out the pastry – this will be quicker spread out in the pie dish, but do rub it with butter first. I’m only using a pastry lid for the pie (that’s sufficient carbohydrates for me), but should you feel inclined, make twice as much pastry and make sure the filling is cold before pouring it on the bottom layer of dough. I thoroughly recommend making your own pastry – it tastes incredible in comparison to the palm oil and margarine muck they sell in supermarkets. If you have a food processor, it only takes about 2 minutes to make – it’s very easy!

pastry

Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll it out on a clean dry surface. A smooth piece of marble or granite is ideal, but a bread board or work top will work equally well. Sprinkle plain flour onto the board and rolling pin to stop it sticking. When the pastry is roughly the right size (slightly bigger is best), roll it around the rolling pin, lift it onto the pie dish and roll it back out. I’m sure listening to Bob Dylan or the Rolling Stones helps! Trim the dough to fit the dish and pinch all the way round with your fingers to make a nice crimped edge. Poke a couple of holes into the top to allow hot air to escape. Decorate with any leftover pastry. Paint the top with milk and a splash of water or use beaten egg and water – both aid in browning.

pie

Bake the pie in a preheated oven at 200º C for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and serve with seasonal vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts.

I recommend a glass or two of Els Nanos Collita with the pie, it’s a robust Catalan vi negre (red wine) made with 70% Ull de Llebre (hare’s eye), more commonly known as Tempranillo in Spanish.

Other pheasant posts

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Moorish Liver

moorish liver

The term Moorish Food can be quite difficult to accurately define. The Moors (from the Latin maurus, meaning person from the Roman province of Mauretania – North Africa) invaded Spain in 711 AD. Two thirds of Iberia was controlled by Berber Hispanic Muslims for 375 years, followed by 160 years ruling about half that area and finally 244 years running the Kingdom of Granada (in the South). In effect the Caliphate presided over much of Hispania for 800 years, taking over a fertile land which had previously been Rome’s market garden – this could, perhaps, be compared to Spain’s relationship with the European Union today.

With the Moors came almonds (almendras), artichokes (alcachofas), aubergines (berenjenas), carrots (zanahorias), cumin (comino), dates (datileras), rice (arroz), saffron (azafrán) and spinach (espinacas) – Claudia Roden (in the Food of Spain) states that lemons (limones) and pomegranates (granadas) returned to Iberia, having disappeared after the collapse of Rome. So the above could definitely be considered Moorish foods. However, it is said that Jews and Muslims taught the Spanish how to cook pork, which sounds preposterous until you consider that the Iberians adopted Moorish methods of cooking lamb and used them for the pig, which became the symbol of Christian food in Spain and Portugal. Contrary to what Jamie Oliver would have us believe, the Moors did not bring Pimentón to Spain! The Conquistadors discovered pimentón in Mexico and are responsible for introducing it to Europe and North Africa. However, paprika went so well with Moorish cuisine that it has become almost synonymous with it. After the Reconquista (1492), a Muslim minority stayed in Iberia until 1609 – when they were expelled, most would have settled in the Maghreb or on the Barbary coast. Spanish military expeditions in North Africa also ensured an early adoption of chilli and pimentón into Berber and Moroccan cuisine. It is thought that the Spanish took chilli peppers to Tunisia (when they occupied the country between 1535 and 1574), which led to the creation of Harissa. After that, pimentón went East via the Ottoman Empire, which is relative to the journey of Moorish ingredients coming West from the Levant. Food tends to go around the Mediterranean in a circle. Not all Spanish food is Moorish, but much of it has been influenced by the Moors.

pig’s liver

Clean the liver and chop it into bite sized pieces. I used pig’s, but this would work well with most types of liver.

Moorish Marinade:

1 teaspoon of cumin seeds (ground)
10 black peppercorns (ground)
1 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera picante
a pinch cayenne pepper
1 dessertspoon extra virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons sherry vinegar

cumin

Warm a teaspoon of cumin seeds (to bring out the flavour) in a frying pan. As soon as the seeds become fragrant, take them off the heat. Grind the cumin and black peppercorns with a mortar and pestle.

seasoning

Add the wet and dry ingredients to the liver.

marinated

Mix to make a sticky mess – you could use a spoon, but it’s probably easier to get your hands dirty. Allow to marinate for a hour or so.

Moorish Liver (serves 2):

1lb pig’s liver (cut into bite sized pieces and marinated)
3 slices smoked streaky bacon (sliced)
1 large onion (sliced)
6 pieces garlic (chopped)
2 dessertspoons plain flour
extra virgin olive oil for frying
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
a teaspoon of fresh coriander
a sprinkle of pimentón de la Vera picante
1/4 pint stock (pork or chicken)
a teaspoon sherry vinegar
blood from the liver (optional)
a knob of butter

caramelised onion

You could fry the onion with the liver, but caramelising it separately will bring out the natural sweetness and add more to the dish. If you caramelise onion in a saucepan, the depth of the allium in the pan helps to stop it burning. Use plenty of olive oil on a low heat and stir often.

smoked streaky bacon

In the meantime, using the frying pan that the liver will be cooked in, brown 3 slices of smoked streaky bacon.

onion, bacon and garlic

Combine the bacon, onions and 6 pieces of chopped garlic. Cook for a few minutes until the garlic has softened.

frying liver

Season  2 dessertspoons of plain flour with salt and pepper and put it into a large bowl then lightly coat the marinated liver with it. Keep any surplus flour.

browned liver

As this is pig’s liver, fry it on a reasonably high heat in a generous amount of olive oil. This will want to stick, so discourage it with vigorous stirring.

liver, bacon and onions

When the liver is cooked through (5 minutes or so), combine with the onions, bacon and garlic. Other types of liver (not chicken!) will be OK with a shorter cooking time and can be served pink (if desired). Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle on a little chopped coriander (cilantro) and a touch of pimentón de la Vera picante. Stir and remove to a warm plate. Cover with foil while you make a gravy.

gravy

Deglaze the now vacant frying pan with a splash of stock and a teaspoon of sherry vinegar. Reserve this liquid. Add extra virgin olive oil to the pan and stir in some of the surplus flour to make a roux. Slowly pour in the deglazing liquid, followed by the remainder of the stock. I stirred in the blood that had come out of the liver, but that’s optional. To finish, melt in a knob of butter.

Serve the Moorish Liver with boiled potatoes, Brussels sprouts and gravy. A glass of  Cap de Trons red (from the Penèdes) will go very well with the liver.

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Feliz Navidad 2019

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The above is the current shop window of the infamous Get Stuffed on Essex Road, Islington – no turkeys in sight!

 

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Faisán en Adobo

faisán en adobo

In the days before canning and refrigeration, people had to rely on other methods of food preservation, such as immersion in fat or oil, pickling in alcohol or vinegar, salting (raw salt or brine) and smoking. When the Spanish and Portuguese built distant empires in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries they used all of the above and created a particular new flavour in meat and fish by adding pimentón (paprika) to vinegar and garlic. Preserving food in vinegar was not new – the ancient Chinese, Persians and Greeks were well aware of vinegar’s antibacterial and medicinal nature. Therefore, the Iberians were likely to have come into contact with vinegar preserving techniques by the time of their Roman occupation and if not, it was definitely a common method of food conservation under the Moorish Caliphate.

The Spanish Conquistadors brought pimentón back to Europe from Mexico, as a gift for the King and Queen – they duly passed it on to monks who started to grow it. Native Americans used this red pepper as a flavouring and medicine. Paprika became a very popular seasoning in both Spain and Portugal, where it’s synonymous with cured meat products such as chorizo. Pimentón, like vinegar, is a natural preservative (and is used to this day in curing ham), so combining the two for food preservation makes a lot of sense, though I’m not sure that the Iberians were aware of this at the time and may have just enjoyed the taste. The Spanish called this mixture Adobo, the Portuguese equivalent being Vinha d’alhos (which is the origin of vindaloo).

These days, adobo is more commonly used as a marinade (prior to cooking), although food cooked in vinegar and pimentón (en escabeche) for preservation in cans or jars is still incredibly popular. In Mexico and South America, adobo has taken on a new dimension as a sauce marinade or sometimes dry rub. Philippine adobo is somewhat different. When the Spanish conquered the Philippines in the late sixteenth century, they discovered that the indigenous people had a cooking method that used vinegars (cane, coconu, palm, etc.) soy, garlic and other ingredients, but not generally pimentón. The Spanish called this adobo de los naturales (adobo of the natives) and the term adobo has stuck. The word adobo comes from the Spanish verb adobar – to marinate.

adobo

Adobo recipe:

6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
3 sprigs thyme (torn up)
1 heaped teaspoon dried oregano
6 juniper berries (crushed)
10 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
a heaped teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce
a heaped teaspoon pimentón de la Vera picante
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

faisán

This is a Spanish style adobo, using pheasant, though it would be good with any kind of fresh meat. This one weighed about 3 lb and therefore had the potential to be a bit tough. Note the yellow fat under the skin. This pheasant has been feasting on corn.

pheasant jointed

Mix up the above adobo recipe and joint the meat. I took the breasts off the bone, but left the legs and wings intact. I included juniper berries specifically because this is a game dish, but I’m sure they’ll go very well with pork.

pheasant in adobo

Immerse the pheasant in the adobo.

faisán adobado

Cover the dish and refrigerate for 2 days, by which time the pheasant becomes adobado (marinated/pickled). You should see a change in colour, the meat goes from red to brown (above). Remove the bird from the marinade and wipe it dry. Do give the meat and marinade time to come to room temperature (an hour or so) before cooking.

Pheasant in Adobo recipe (serves 2 -3 people):

1 pheasant jointed
3 slices smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 stick celery (chopped)
1 red pepper (chopped)
15 Kalamata olives
2 dessertspoons olive juice
1 dessertspoon tomate purée
2 large squirts anchovy paste (to taste)
1/4 pint pheasant stock
adobo marinade

smoked streaky

In some fresh olive oil, fry 3 slices of chopped streaky bacon. Remove to a plate when done.

browned pheasant

Using the bacon fried oil, brown the pheasant pieces all over and reserve.

cebolla

Gently caramelise the chopped onion in the same oil.

santísima trinidad

When the onion is golden brown, stir in the celery, sweet red pepper and garlic to form a holy trinity.

faisán con olivas

Return the pheasant and bacon to the casserole, along with the Kalamata olives, bay leaves, tomato purée and anchovy paste.

caldo

Scoop off any oil floating at the top of the marinade (I used this to roast some potatoes – it could be used to brown the pheasant, but I thought that it would be inclined to spit) and stir the adobo into the casserole, along with the stock. The olives came in olive oil and brine, which tasted quite good, so I added a splash or two of that to taste. Simmer on the hob uncovered for an hour.

Serve with rice or boiled potatoes and a glass of Anciano Gran Reserva tempranillo.

The flavour of the dish was quite surprising – there was no taste of vinegar whatsoever, the pimentón had mellowed considerably and the olives, onions and red peppers really stood out. The pheasant was exceptionally tender. This adobo would be perfect for venison or hare and work wonders on a tough cut of beef or pork.

Other pheasant posts

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Snipe – “Butcher’s Treat”

snipe

The Common Snipe is a wading bird native to the British Isles and it’s numbers are augmented in winter by other snipe that migrate here from Northern Europe. There are 26 species of snipe in total, distributed throughout the Old World, the Americas, Australia and New Zealand. Snipe live on wet grassland, marshes and moors – they have long legs and feet specifically adapted to this habitat. Their pointed bills have evolved for probing mud and soil – they like to eat worms, insects, crustaceans and plants.

The snipe is very well camouflaged and it’s brown plumage resembles that of a female duck. They are revered as probably the most delicious of all game birds, while being the smallest legal bird that one can hunt (in season). In spite of being highly sought after, the snipe is incredibly difficult to spot and shoot. In flight they zig zag all over the place – this may be the snipe’s way of avoiding natural predators, such as owls and hawks. The term sniper, meaning expert marksman or sharpshooter, relates to a snipe’s erratic flight and going on a snipe shoot is synonymous with embarking on a fool’s errand. According to Clarissa Dickson Wright, in her Game Cookbook, Winston Churchill once demanded, “a finger of snipe and a pint of port”, as a hangover cure. She says that a finger refers to the number of snipe which can be carried in one hand between the fingers, therefore, three birds.

baking potato

I have been looking for a bird specifically for this recipe for some time – it’s snipe cooked in a potato! I found Snipe, “Butcher’s Treat”, in a book by Prue Coats (a well known contributor to The Field and Shooting Times) called Prue’s New Country Cooking. In the book, Prue states that she doesn’t know where the recipe comes from, but assumes it was invented by Mr. Butcher, or a local butcher… I’ve changed the recipe slightly, by adding herbs and garlic. I also cut the cooking time from 1 hour to 30 minutes.

I asked the Pheasant Girl at the beginning of the season if she’d look out for a snipe and was delighted last Sunday, when the she beamed a smile at me and said, “Guess what I’ve found for you?” I was so pleased I could have kissed her!

Snipe – Butcher’s Treat recipe (1 per person):

1 snipe
1 baking potato
2 knobs of butter
4 fresh sage leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
1 clove of garlic, bruised and peeled
sea salt and cracked black pepper

Like it’s cousin the Woodcock, Snipe defecate on takeoff and therefore, it’s traditional to eat these birds without gutting them. Feel free to follow your own instincts…

coracle

This is quite simple, choose a suitably large baking potato, slice the top “lid” off and hollow out the inside with a pairing knife and teaspoon. If necessary, cut a small slice off the bottom of the potato so that it doesn’t roll over. Make a similar but smaller hollow in the lid, so that it will close properly.

potato snipe

Sprinkle the inside of the potato with salt and pepper, line the bottom with 4 fresh sage leaves, add a knob of butter and a clove of garlic. Sit the snipe on top and apply the leaves of 2 sprigs of thyme, along with more salt and pepper.

sputnik

Put the other knob of butter on the bird, or if feeling extravagant, a piece of smoked streaky bacon. Close the lid and secure with 4 cocktail sticks.

baked

Place the potato in a moderately hot oven at 230ºC for 30 minutes. If you have access to an open fire, it’s worth considering wrapping the potato in foil and cooking it in the embers for an hour.

baked potato

Put all the extracted potato into a small baking dish, with salt, pepper and yet another knob of butter. Cover with foil and cook with the bird.

butcher’s treat

When the snipe is done, it will be beautifully tender and have slightly pink flesh.

toast

If you are feeling brave, remove the entire contents of the stomach and spread the entrails on toast like paté. I can assure you that it’s quite delicious, as are the brains.

dem bones

Zig Zag Red (like these birds in flight) wine is a must for Snipe or Woodcock – it’s produced in Surrey, England.

If roasting snipe, start in a hot oven proof frying pan on the hob, with a mixture of olive oil and butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and brown the bird all over, spooning the liquid over the breast for a couple of minutes. Finish off in the oven at 230ºC. 4 minutes on the hob and 6 minutes in the oven – 10 minutes maximum! Allow to rest and serve on toast, or better still, fried bread.

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Faisán con Lenteja Pardina

faisán con lenteja pardina

The pheasant is originally native to Asia, but the Romans were so enamoured with the bird that it was introduced throughout their empire. Pheasants are a common sight in Catalan markets, where they are a fully wild game bird, unlike Britain, where they are bred and released into the wild to shoot. As a result, here they are plentiful and cheap, whereas in Cataluña, they cost at least double. Perhaps the price adds to the flavour…

This is  Catalan style recipe, using a traditional sofregit as a base to the recipe and a picada towards the end, to thicken and enhance the flavour. This style of cooking is typical of the region.

faisán

Pheasant Stock recipe:

1 large pheasant
1 leek
1 stick of celery
1 large carrot
6 pieces garlic
2 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs sage
2 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
6 juniper berries (crushed)
sea salt and cracked black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1 3/4 pints of water

caldo de faisán

First of all, make a stock with the pheasant (this helps when removing the meat from the bones and keeps it firm). Brown the bird, using extra virgin olive oil, in a cast iron casserole (to caramelise the sugars in the skin and bring out flavour). Sprinkle with salt and pepper while scorching the bird. When the meat has browned, add all the other ingredients to the pot, bring to the boil, skim off any scum, put the lid on and remove to a preheated oven at 150ºC for an hour. Turn the bird over half way through. Note that I used a couple of leak tops – these are perfect for stocks, so don’t throw them away. When done, strain the stock and pick off and chop the meat, into bite size pieces.

Pheasant with Pardina Lentils recipe (serves 3 -4):

the meat from one poached pheasant (boned and chopped)
2 slices smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
1 stick of celery (chopped)
1 red pepper (chopped)
5 medium tomatoes (grated)
6 pieces garlic (finely chopped)
1/2 lb dry Pardina lentils
1 1/2 pints of pheasant stock
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera picante
a heaped dessertspoon tomato purée
a squirt anchovy paste
2 bay leaves
extra virgin olive oil

beicon

First of all, chop and brown the smoked streaky bacon, using olive oil, in the vessel that you intend to cook the recipe. I’m using a traditional terracotta cazuela, but a cast iron casserole would be perfect. When done, reserve the bacon for later.

cebolla

Gently caramelise the onion with the pre flavoured bacon oil and an additional splash of olive oil. Be generous with the oil, it’s an ingredient and not just a frying medium – it helps to stop the onion burning. For a good sofregit (fregir means to fry and sofregir, to under fry), the onion should go sticky with a golden colour. Definitely no burnt bits! This may take 30 minutes or more.

tomates

When the onion looks right, add the garlic and tomatoes – cut them in half and grate the wet side. It’s quick and you end up with a disk of skin, which can be thrown away or used in stock. Cook for a couple of minutes,

apio y pimienta

before stirring in the celery and red pepper,

carne

followed by the chopped pheasant meat and bacon.

lenteja pardina

Stir in the Pardina Lentils or other small brown variety – these days Spain imports 95% of it’s Lenteja Pardina from the USA! This type of lentil does not require soaking.

caldo

Pour in the stock and mix in the sherry vinegar, tomato purée, anchovy paste and two bay leaves. Cover and cook gently for 60 – 90 minutes. The lentils are done when they are al dente or soft to the tooth, depending on personal preference. There should be some liquid left which has not been absorbed by the lentils – if necessary add a little stock or water.

Picada recipe:

2 cloves garlic
1 dessertspoon parsley
1 slice sourdough bread (fried)
a dessertspoon sherry vinegar (or to taste)
3 dessertspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup blanched peeled almonds (toasted)
a pinch coarse sea salt

A picada is the finishing touch to a dish, it thickens and adds additional flavour. Traditionally a picada contain almonds (though other nuts can be used), garlic, dry bread, olive oil, often parsley and some kind of liquid, such as vinegar, stock or cooking juices. Sometimes it contains the cooked liver of the animal (rabbit or chicken) from the main dish. While the lentils are cooking, grind up the picada with a mortar and pestle.

almendras

First, toast the almonds in a frying pan, followed by frying the bread in olive oil.

picada

Crush it all with the pestle, adding the liquids last – to make a smooth pesto like paste.

agente espesante

Stir the picada into the lentils and cook for a couple on minutes more.

Serve with crusty sourdough bread and a glass of robust Catalan red wine, such as Albet i Noya Curios Tempranillo.

Other pheasant posts

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