Pheasant in cider

When I made the strange, but rather delicious, Tomatoey, from an old cookbook, it suggested serving it with roast meat.

I always have, in my freezer, some game. Usually despatched by my brother and given to me so I have something ready to roast quickly. On the morning of the day that I was going to make Tomatoey, I rummaged through the freezer and came up with a lovely little pheasant, which I could imagine would be truly delicious served with a rich and gorgeous tomato bread side dish.

Wild game is healthy and generally very low fat – there’s no idling around in a farm, eating processed feed pellets for a wild bird. They eat what is natural and they fly so there is no excess fat on them. That’s good for a full flavoured and low fat meat but it does mean you have to cook them carefully – and by that I mean a quick roast or braise so they don’t dry out… maybe covering their tender little breasts with bacon to protect them and serving them with something that enhances their rich meat.

Roasting a pheasant takes less than half an hour, if you sear the outsides,  so that would go well with the timings I was working on for Tomatoey. Things were coming together.

First of all, get your casserole dish hot and add a teaspoonful of oil or so then sear the outsides of the pheasant, turning it round so all of the bird browns.

If you are not using cast iron, then sear the bird in a frying pan… a ceramic casserole dish will break if you put it over a hot hob!

Take the bird out and start on the next step

First, some some lovely onion needs to be chopped and popped into the casserole dish to start cooking

Some dry cure bacon can be chopped into that to make a rich and delicious sauce – but save a couple of bits to cover the breast of the bird when it is in the oven…

And a small bottle of cider will make a lovely gravy… so add some now to help the onion and bacon start to cook.

You will see it makes a lovely golden gravy as everything bubbles away.

Pop the bronzed little pheasant on top of the onion and bacon and cider mix and pour in the rest of the cider.

The remaining bacon can be laid over the top of the bird and all you have to do now is pop it into the oven for half an hour – which was handy because that was where I had the Tomatoey!

You end up with a gloriously tender and fragrant little pheasant… just falling apart..

And the gravy that has been made is both sweet and savoury

Perfect to moisten the little pheasant and extremely delicious to go along with anything else you choose to serve with it.

It is a rather special dish considering it took less than an hour to start, prepare, cook and serve. And half an hour of that it was looking after itself in the oven.

Give it a go, eh?

Pheasant breasting masterclass

Now the shooting season is in full swing, it isn’t unusual to spot birds waiting to be prepared if you walk into my brother’s kitchen


The pictures in this post were all taken by my brother and sister in law, with her phone, as they breasted a pheasant, so that we can all see how easy it is.

Yes, I have plucked a pheasant and yes, it is incredibly messy (if you want to do that then put the bird inside a large plastic bag and pluck inside there…. otherwise the feathers go everywhere. And let me tell you, they are the very devil to hoover up.) It’s also incredible time consuming.

If you just want to have the breasts of the pheasant, this is the best way to do it.

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Lay the bird out on the draining board and spread the wings – you will be able to feel that the skin is slightly looser. Pinch a bit between your fingers so it is lifted up from the actual flesh and slide the knife in

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And with a sharp knife, cut the skin, straight down the middle. It’s quite easy.

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You can easily pull it away from the flesh.

See that yellow fat? It tastes harsh and not very pleasant at all, so trim that off as well.

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Then, get your sharp knife and cut down the breastbone, slicing off the breasts.

Pheasant done

And there you are…. a few minutes work and you have four lovely pheasant breasts. No feathers flying everywhere, either.

See the ones on the left? Those marks are where the bird was shot, so run your fingers over the flesh and make sure there’s no lead shot left in there. You’d hate to be faced with the dentists bills of your guests!

All you have to do now is think what recipe you are going to use for them.

(I’m not a pheasant plucker……)

Tandoori Pheasant

 As you may know (if you read my post about Game) I do tend to get my hands on a variety of game birds. The latest to turn up was pheasant.

One of the luxuries of having a ready supply of game is that you can experiment more readily than you would if you can only get  the occasional bird.

About a year ago, I scrawled some notes about a recipe for Partridge Tandoori. I know it was Valentine Warner but when I searched for it online, I couldn’t find it, so I can’t link to it. You’ll have to take my word on it. He had worked out the calorie count as coming in around 329 calories per serving. Well, pheasant would do instead of partridge and it would still be able to feature in the 400 and Under section.

You don’t need a tandoor oven to cook it on – you could use a barbecue, but I think in this weather, it is appropriate to stay indoors and use a griddle pan.

The trick with any tandoori dish is the marinade. The meat (whatever sort you are using) goes into that and stays overnight to absorb the flavour.  If you want this you need to start a day ahead . The only reason it is red is because of red food dye so we can miss that out, I think. So… start with making the marinade

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You’ll need 2 tsp of ground cumin

2 tsp of turmeric

1 and a half teaspoons of ground coriander

1 tbsp of garam masala

Nutmeg – a good grating

1 tsp salt flakes

6 garlic cloves, peeled

Half a small onion

1 red chilli, de seeded

Half a juiced lemon

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Blitz them all into a fine paste

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Then  add 250 ml yoghurt  – I was using the Total Greek Yoghurt 0%

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and give it a quick blitz but don’t over process it – see it has some texture?

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Put it all into a large bowl. It needs to be large because you are going to put your pheasant in there.

And now for the fun bit. I have some poultry shears, which are big, strong scissors that can snip their way through any bird… if you are going to be doing this sort of thing a lot then it would be a good idea to get some. If not then have at the carcass with a sharp knife – but watch your fingers

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You need to cut the bird, first down the breast bone

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so you have two bits

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and then separate the legs and thighs

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Then, take the skin off… the skin of game birds is not like the sweetly savoury crispy skin you can get on a roasted chicken, so just stick your fingers in there and rip it off. It’s quite easy, really… and besides the skin is already torn from where it was shot.

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Now then.. you have a plate of naked pheasant, cut neatly (or not)  into pieces.

 Because you are going to marinade the pieces overnight, you want that spicy, yoghurty mix to get into the flesh. Score the breasts and thighs with a sharp knife so that the marinade can get into the flesh.

Really give it a good covering, squishing it about….

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and then cover the bowl with cling film and leave overnight.

The next day, wipe your griddle with a piece of kitchen roll and vegetable oil then get it hot. Lift out each piece of pheasant at a time, shaking off the excess marinade and lie it down in the pan.

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Don’t move the pieces around too much because you want them to get a lovely. slightly charred crust…

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It will take maybe 8 or so minutes on each side…..

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Just check that you are happy with the amount of cooking… I quite like it just cooked and tender but you may be different.

All you need to serve it with are some lemon quarters and maybe some naan braed on the side

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That was delicious … and perhaps one of the tastiest ways of eating pheasant.

All that and under 400 calories…. oooh, I feel thinner already!

Woodpigeon Breasts on toast with lemon and thyme fresh cheese

I had got some woodpigeon breasts and thought they would make a lovely lunch.

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Beautiful wild game with no additives

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Except, perhaps the lead shot that killed it!

I also had the lovely fresh cheese that I made specifically for this on the Great Greek Yoghurt Challenge….

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And I have a fresh loaf of No Knead Bread

(I think I have seen a recipe for something very like this but I really can’t find it… I can’t have imagined it, surely? I have spent ages flicking through my magazines looking for the recipe but I just can’t spot it. It was probably in Olive or delicious. a year or more ago and it involved some kind of game, on toast with a lemony, thyme-y ricotta…. probably.  I have searched online and I still can’t find it – if any of you know who did it then let me know so I can give due credit. I would hate for someone to think I was stealing their ideas and I always try to link back to originals. I would hope that people would do that for me too)

Anyway, this is as simple as simple can be and oh-so-fast.

First, slice and toast your bread

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Heat some oil in a pan (I use my oil that I have steeped chillies in – it just gives things a little lift) 

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 and after seasoning the woodpigeon breasts with salt and some thyme

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start to fry it quickly -it will only take a few minutes to get the outside browned beautifully while the inside stays pink

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Once it is done, take it out and let it rest while you deglaze the pan with something.. wine, perhaps? Sherry? Port? Or, as I did, a Balsamic truffle glaze.

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Slice the pigeon breast and lay it on the toast,

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Drizzle with the pan juices

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Put a spoonful of the fresh cheese over the meat

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And that, I should tell you, was a lovely weekend lunch.

And I know that, hard though it is to believe, that one portion of this will come in at under 400 calories. Just a squeak under, but under, nevertheless.

It would be a brilliant week night supper as well, as it can be made in less than 15 minutes, if you have everything to hand.


I was born and brought up in the North of England in a more rural area than most of the rest of the country. I lived in a small village before I moved to the city. That’s it in the picture, just perched on the hill below the rising sun

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 Shooting is a pretty typical pastime, whether it is clay pigeons or game, in season. And now it is autumn, with its cool and misty mornings…… shooting season begins

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Those of you who disagree with shooting, leave the page now. What follows will only be of interest to those who believe that if you want to eat meat then you take the responsibility of dealing with its death. I believe it is an honest way of getting food.

It is also seasonal, healthy and very tasty. Excellent reasons for getting your own game. If you don’t (or can’t shoot) then support people who do and sell their game on. My brother (he of the ginger beer ham) shoots and, if he is feeling generous towards his big sister, will hand over various birds.

It’s the shooting season now and I asked him to remember me.

He must have been thinking of me because he sent me some photos   (probably the only photographs on this blog that  I didn’t take myself, so full credit to  little brother)  anyway, he took them on his mobile phone while he was out  the other day

Big Little Brother's Shoot

 Fantastic, isn’t it?

And while he was lurking in the undergrowth….look what went past

Bruv's deer pic

No, he didn’t come home clutching a haunch of venison but in the autumn months we are always well supplied with game birds – pheasants, wood pigeon, partridge, wild duck – and they make an excellent addition to autumn cooking.

Big Little Brother's shots!

At the moment, in my freezer, I have woodpigeon and pheasant and I know exactly what I will be doing with most of them. One of the many good things about having a regular supply of game is that you can experiment with new recipes and not just stick to the traditional ones.

Expect more posts on this – you might not have the game but you could replace that in the menu with chicken and you might find new recipes to please you.

Oh, and expect, at some point, to find a masterclass on breasting pheasant  – the world’s best little brother has promised to take pictures to show you how easy it is to prepare a pheasant for cooking! He’s also rather good on recipes…..

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit…………… ragu

While I was in the north and at the butcher’s, I spotted some rabbit

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£2.20! I bought that and started to think of things to make with it. Because the rabbits are wild they have very little fat on them but they are high in protein… a very delicious meat but they need to be cosseted in order to get the best from them. I thought a lovely rich ragu, slowly cooked until the rabbit was tender and served with pasta would be gorgeous.

What you will need is rabbit, of course, carrots, onion, some streaky bacon, a couple of bay leaves and some peppercorns. You’ll need either fresh tomatoes or a tin of the lovely Italian plum tomatoes, some wine, garlic and some butter.

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 I got the bay leaves from the tree on the balcony

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You will need pasta to serve it with – I make it when I have time but just buy some if you want to.

It was the weekend so I had the time to do this….. first of all, if the rabbit isn’t jointed, then do it now. Mine was, so that saved me a job. If it isn’t then you need to take a sharp knife and carefully cut through the joints. If you have poultry shears snip down the ribs. Get it into roughly evenly sized pieces.

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Heat your casserole and some oil and then start to brown your rabbit. What you are about to do is get the meat ready and make a delicious stock that you will add to the tomato sauce to pour over your pasta.

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While the rabbit is browning, get the rest of the stock ingredients together

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Chop the carrots and onion, get some black peppercorns and add that to the browned rabbit. Add some water – don’t entirely cover the rabbit – and see all the lovely browning caramelisation mix with the water already……


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Just leave that to simmer quietly for an hour and a half or so until the rabbit is tender and falling off the bone.

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Usual routine… chop the onion, start to sweat it gently…

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Never put the garlic in with the onion as it burns too quickly.. so while the onion is gently softening, chop the garlic

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Then the bacon… chop that and add it

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Once that has started to cook down, add the tomato. Chopped plum tomatoes in a tin are fine… excellent, in fact. You should always have tins of them in the cupboard.

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The juice sticks to the side of the tin so pour some red wine in and swish it round… then pour it in

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Well, you might as well get the last of the tomato out and you don’t want to dilute the delicious ragu with water, do you?

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Now that, too, can simmer for a while…..

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See how rich it is looking?

Back to the rabbit…..

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See? It is tender and starting to come away

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Get it out and put on a plate.. don’t throw the stock out! Look at how the wooden fork can gently pull the flesh away ….

Meanwhile, strain the vegetables from the stock.. you don’t need them but you do need the stock

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Boil down the stock with a good old slug of vermouth for a few minutes so it reduces slightly then add it to the ragu…. I decided to blitz it as I wanted a smooth base to go with the soon-to-be shredded rabbit

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Start shredding the rabbit… well, you don’t need to shred, it just falls apart when you pull at it

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Do watch out for the bones though.. a rabbit always seems to me to have more bones than are necessary… look at them

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Still, you get a lot of meat for your £2.20

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Then, add the lovely, tender, delicate rabbit to the gorgeously smooth sauce

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Stir it round.. that rabbit need to be covered in the sauce

While that is gently simmering, get some pasta ready

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And then…? Well then you put the two together…

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That is something I will be doing again. There was enough rich and tasty ragu there to easily feed 6 of us. Pity there was only the two of us……. don’t you wish you had been passing and had called in to share?