A Fowl Tale
I live over the road from a lovely, old-fashioned English butcher. The men know me by name but call me Madam, and routinely inquire after “Sir”, my husband Tom. Utterly charming.
Inside this butcher is a display that would delight any carnivore. Proper Tomahawk steaks, full ribs of beef, sliced to order, pork roasts “with extra crackling, Madam?” – and the best sausages ever.
In addition to the more recognisable proteins, the butcher supplies some products perhaps less commonly consumed. Pigeon breasts, pork knuckles, fillet of venison… and pheasants, apparently. I felt compelled to try one.
It turns out pheasant is inexpensive (£4 per bird, feeding two generously), very local (I hear pheasant shoots almost every time I wander in the countryside these days) and pheasant is about as free range as it gets.
Taking advice from my butcher, I roasted it whole for 45 minutes. First sitting upright for 15, then turning the bird on each of its sides for 15 so it doesn’t dry out. I first rubbed it in butter, seasoned it and sprinkled over some dried thyme. A couple of bastes during the cooking is all that’s needed.
To serve it, use a knife to separate the legs and thighs from the body and leave them whole. Carve off the breasts and serve whole too. This time it was half a pheasant per person on a bed of risotto, with some roasted purple carrots on the side.
Pheasant tastes like nothing I’ve ever tried. It is distinctively gamey; frankly, it tastes like the forest. Next time, I would serve with some wild mushrooms and celeriac mash, or perhaps make a pheasant-au-vin – with a side of irony.
Come to think of it, Sussex Fried Pheasant has a nice ring to it…