January 27th, 2013
Having eaten a large amount of roast pheasant recently, down to the fact that they are currently cheap and quite delicious, I thought I’d try something different with this one.
To spatchcock a bird, put it breast downwards on a chopping board and push down on it hard with the flat of your hand to flatten and break the breast bone. Remove the back bone with a pair of heavy duty kitchen scissors, squash the bird out as flat as possible and poke two skewers through it crisscrossed to maintain the flatness. Soak the skewers for at least half an hour beforehand, to stop them burning when you cook the pheasant. See here for step by step spatchcocking.
I had a fantastic looking tin of Harissa du Cap Bon, which was calling out to be used. Harissa is quite easy to make, but I really liked the Tunisian packaging and it’s a good standby to have in the cupboard. If you are not familiar with harissa, it’s a hot chilli sauce – it may look like it contains tomatoes, but actually the colour comes from chillies alone.
I mixed the tin of harissa with 4 pieces of garlic (finely chopped), the juice of a lemon and several slugs of olive oil. This is not for the faint hearted, harissa is very hot – you can taste this and judge for yourself, the heat can be moderated by mixing in Greek or natural yoghurt. For people wanting a milder chilli flavour a one to one mixture with yoghurt might be a good starting point.
Rub the pheasant all over with the harissa paste and leave for several hours or overnight. Cook in a preheated oven at 200º C for 30 – 40 minutes, breast side up. This would work equally well and perhaps even better on a barbecue.
30 minutes should be enough to cook a spatchcocked pheasant, they can be served pink. I went by the crispness and colour of the marinade.
The chilli hot pheasant and gravy went very well with roast potatoes and cauliflower. The heat and chilli flavours are probably best suited to strong tasting meat, so pheasant is an ideal choice.
A cold glass of Kingfisher beer goes well with this, or if you are on fire, a glass of milk will quench the chilli flames.