The pheasant is a stupid bird and if it weren't for gamekeepers it would probably be endangered. But it has two saving graces: it's colourful and it makes good eating. They're in season now and, especially if you live in a country area, are likely to be easily available and fairly cheap. While pheasant is delicious roasted, it makes a scrummy casserole for a cold, snowy winter's day. This is what I did this evening ...
For two hungry persons you will need:
1 plump pheasant (hens are best)
5 small-medium onions (red onions for preference)
1 yellow pepper
Handful of mushrooms
Quantity of ripe tomatoes
Garlic (to taste)
Tomato paste (optional)
2-3 tsp dried mixed herbs (or bouquet garni)
2 tbsp butter
Wine glass of port
Salt & pepper
This is what you do:
Take a large enough casserole (with a good lid) and drizzle a little olive oil over the bottom.
Peel and quarter the onions and put them in the casserole.
Halve the pheasant (cut it down the middle with a good pair of kitchen scissors); rinse and place in the casserole on the onions.
(If you can be bothered to brown the meat and onion, now is the time. Personally I never bother unless I want the meat floured to give a thicker sauce.)
Roughly chop the garlic.
Core the pepper and cut into 8.
Cut the courgettes into 2cm lengths
Halve the mushrooms
Quarter the fennel.
Quarter the tomatoes, unless they’re cherry tomatoes when halve them. (I used a large quantity of very ripe cherry tomatoes; you could use tinned tomatoes.)
Put all the veg on top of the pheasant, tomatoes last.
Add the herbs, a very little salt, pepper to taste, followed by the port.
Drizzle a bit more olive oil over and put the butter on top followed by the lid for the casserole.
Cook in the bottom of a moderate oven for 60-90 minutes (until pheasant is thoroughly cooked and the veg is soft).
Serve with roast (or garlic) potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes, and a good red wine.
Notes:In the unlikely event there are any leftovers, use them for soup.
You can basically use whatever veg you have to hand, although go easy on the root veg as you want the variety of flavours and colours - this should be a colourful as well as rib-sticking dish.
Never had Jerusalem Artichokes? They’re tubers (like knobbly potatoes) of a plant which is related to sunflower. In season in late autumn and winter, you'll find them at good greengrocers but not in most supermarkets. Roast or steam them like potatoes but do NOT peel them (just scrub them clean); they’re softer than potatoes and caramelise better. They're especially yummy roast and make a good variation with Christmas dinner. Oh and if you have a vegetable garden or allotment they’re dead easy to grow - we had them in an odd, otherwise useless, corner when I was a kid and never needed to replant them as you never get all the tubers out!