Roasted Pheasant with Prunes, Creamed Celeriac, Pink Fir Fondant and Barley
Portion/Yield:Serves 4 as a main course
The flavour combination of pheasant, celeriac and prunes is warming and full-bodied, like a well-aged cognac. This dish is ideal for a party and festive celebrations as you can prepare most of the components in advance.
The pheasant is not served as you might expect roast pheasant to be served. To keep the pheasant breasts beautifully moist and tender, I brown them in butter, then finish the cooking by poaching them in hot stock. It might sound like additional work, but it’s worth it, particularly at this time of year when you want to make meals that extra bit special. The meat from the pheasant legs is combined with prunes and made into irresistibly delicious sausages, which I wrap in bacon to keep them moist and add flavour during cooking.
Ingredients & Method
For the roasted pheasant
- 40g dried stoned prunes, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons Armagnac
- 2 oven-ready pheasants (about 500g each)
- 1 tablespoon rapeseed oil, plus 1 teaspoon rapeseed oil
- a sprig of fresh thyme, leaves only
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 80g pork sausagemeat
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mixed herbs (such as sage, parsley, rosemary, chives and chervil)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 rashers smoked streaky bacon, cut in half widthways x
- 2 rashers smoked streaky bacon, cut in half widthways
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 200ml brown chicken stock or roasted game stock
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the Pink Fir fondant
- 85g unsalted butter, plus
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 16 Pink Fir Apple potatoes (about 1kg total weight), washed well and drained
- 200ml cold water
For the barley
- 200g pearl barley
- 1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mixed herbs (such as rosemary, chives and chervil)
For the creamed celeriac
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 celeriac (400–500g), peeled and finely sliced
- 200ml white chicken stock
- 50ml double cream
- 200g purple sprouting broccoli, florets only
First, prepare the roasted pheasant. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper and set aside. Place the prunes in a small bowl, add the Armagnac and leave to soak for 10–15 minutes.
Remove the breasts from the pheasants using a sharp knife (leave the skin on), then place them in a covered container and refrigerate until needed.
Remove the legs from the birds, rub them all over with 1 teaspoon rapeseed oil, the thyme leaves and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Place the legs in a roasting tin and roast in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the skin is golden brown and the meat is tender.Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 30 minutes.
Remove and discard the skin from the legs, then flake the meat into a bowl. Measure out 80g of the flaked leg meat and place it in a mixing bowl with the sausagemeat, herbs, nutmeg and soaked prunes. Season lightly with salt and pepper and mix well. Divide the mixture into 4 equal balls and roll each portion into a sausage shape (about 2cm in diameter). Wrap a piece of bacon around each sausage, then transfer to the prepared baking tray and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes to firm up (see Cook’s Notes).
Next, prepare the Pink Fir fondant. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Melt the 1 tablespoon butter in a casserole and sauté the potatoes over a high heat for 2–3 minutes or until golden, then season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the remaining 85g butter and the water to the casserole, stir to mix, then place a cartouche (a circle of greaseproof paper) directly on the surface of the liquid. Cover the casserole with a lid, transfer to the oven and cook for 20–22 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated (the cooking time will depend on the size of the potatoes). Remove the potatoes from the pan using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl and keep warm until you are ready to serve (see Cook’s Notes).
Meanwhile, prepare the barley. Rinse the pearl barley under cold running water, then place in a large saucepan and cover with plenty of fresh cold water. Cover the pan and bring to the boil over a high heat, then boil rapidly for 25–30 minutes or until the barley is cooked and tender. Add a little salt about 2 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Remove from the heat and drain, then stir in the rapeseed oil and herbs. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, then keep the barley warm (see Cook’s Notes).
While the pearl barley is cooking, prepare the creamed celeriac. Melt the butter in a saucepan and once it starts to foam, add the celeriac and salt and pepper, then cover and sweat over a low heat for about 15 minutes or until softened but not coloured at all, stirring regularly to prevent the celeriac from catching. Add the stock, increase the heat to medium and bring the stock to a simmer, then cover and cook for a further 12 minutes, by which time the liquid should have evaporated – if not, remove the lid, turn the heat up and cook until all the liquid has evaporated. You want the celeriac to be fairly dry. Remove from the heat and carefully transfer the celeriac to a blender, add the cream and then purée until very smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, then transfer to a bowl, cover and set aside until you are ready to serve (see Cook’s Notes). Just before serving, gently reheat the creamed celeriac in a saucepan until piping hot.
In the meantime, finish cooking the pheasant. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Heat the butter and the remaining 1 tablespoon rapeseed oil in a non-stick frying pan, season the pheasant breasts with salt and pepper, then place them in the pan, skin-side down, and cook over a high heat for about 2 minutes or until golden brown. Flip the breasts over and cook for a further 2 minutes or until golden brown on the reverse side, then remove from the heat and transfer to a deep roasting tin, skin-side up.
Bring the stock to the boil in a saucepan, then carefully pour it around the pheasant breasts so that it just covers the bottom of the roasting tin but doesn’t cover the skin of the pheasant. Cook in the oven for about 12 minutes or until the pheasant is cooked and hot all the way through. Remove from the oven and leave the breasts to rest in the stock for 5 minutes before draining and serving.
While the pheasant breasts are roasting, cook the pheasant sausages at the same time. Cook the pheasant sausages in the oven for 12–15 minutes or until the sausages are golden brown and cooked through. While the pheasant breasts are resting, reheat the creamed celeriac as directed. Blanch the purple sprouting broccoli in a pan of boiling salted water for 2–3 minutes or until just tender, then drain.
To serve, spread the hot creamed celeriac on to 4 serving plates, then spoon a portion of the warm barley into the centre of each plate. Top with a pheasant breast and a pheasant sausage, then place the fondant potatoes and broccoli alongside. Serve immediately.
Store the leftover cooked pheasant leg meat in an airtight container in the fridge and use within 3 days.
The uncooked pheasant sausages can be made up to 3 days in advance, then stored in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready to cook them.
The Pink Fir fondant can be made up to 3 days in advance, then cooled and stored in an airtight container in the fridge until needed. Reheat in a preheated oven at 180°C/Gas Mark 4 for 12–15 minutes or until hot throughout.
The barley can also be made up to 3 days in advance, then cooled and stored in an airtight container in the fridge until needed. Reheat in a saucepan over a low heat for 8–10 minutes or until hot throughout.