Good Game – a seasonal pheasant terrine
All seasons bring their excitement in the food world and winter is a great source of seasonal goodies from the abundant fish and seafood coming into Brixham Fish Market which you can buy at the fishmongers in Dartmouth to all the fab root vegetables and brassicas in the greengrocers and the game coming from the local shoots. We are lucky enough to have friends who drop in a few birds if they’ve been out for a day of shooting or beating and we love putting them to good use – the birds, not the friends. Many thanks to Howard and Ken – our source of randomly regular pheasant drop-ins throughout the shooting season. You can also buy them from the butchers and Mark Lobb will often have game for sale in the Market Square; if you don’t get them free from friends, they don’t cost a lot to buy.
Pheasant are the most numerous arrivals with the occasional partridge or pigeon. The breast is the meatiest bit so if we’re short for time, we just slit the skin over the breast, pull it back and then take the breast meat off with a sharp knife. Don’t get alarmed if there is bruising on the meat – it’s just where the bird has been clipped by some shot. Make sure your knife is sharp so you get as much meat off the carcass as you can.
If we have a bit more time, we’ll take the meat off the whole bird as there is a bit more on the thighs. The legs get a bit sinewy so they just go straight into the stock pot as if we’re making chicken stock. Pick over the flesh in case of any lurking lead shot which you don’t want to bite into. We’re not great fans of well hung game so we use it as soon as it arrives, not leaving them hanging around which will increase the gaminess. If you can’t deal with them straightaway, leave them hanging in a cool place and don’t forget them especially if the weather becomes warm as you’ll attract bluebottles.
As far as cooking the pheasant goes, you can pretty much treat them like chicken – roast or pan-fry the breasts, chop it up and cook them in a sauce (curry works well), or braise with mushrooms and red wine for a casserole which could then have a pastry topping put on. If you can’t get any pheasant or don’t like it, just use chicken breast and thigh.
As Christmas is coming up, we’ve used the latest delivery to plan ahead and make a terrine which can be frozen and brought out for the festivities. We’ve cut it into sections, wrapped it tightly in clingfilm and frozen it like that so we don’t have to get out the whole terrine. Served with some great bread and onion marmalade or cranberry sauce, it will make a lovely lunch, or serve it on biscuits with drinks, in sandwiches if you’re out for a walk or you could even use it as stuffing in a chicken or the turkey itself.
Here’s how we made our pheasant terrine –
Serves 8-10 as a starter or plenty if serving at a party
2 pheasants, skinned and cleaned
1 onion or 2 shallots, peeled and very finely chopped
150g chicken livers
250g sausage meat
1 clove garlic, peeled and very finely chopped
1tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1tsp ground coriander
1 medium egg, beaten
100g shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
50g dried apricots, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
300g very thin bacon (no rind) or pancetta
- Heat the oven to 150C/Gas 3.
- Lightly oil a large (800g) loaf tin and line it with the thinly sliced bacon or pancetta, overlapping them a little and so that the rashers overhang the edges (as you’ll want to bring the overhanging bits over the top of the terrine once it’s in the tin).
- Take the breasts off the pheasants and cut 2 of them lengthways into 1cm strips.
- Take the meat off the thighs and legs discarding any sinews. Put all this into a food processor with the other 2 breasts and the chicken livers.
- Pulse the food processor to get a mince (you can also use a mincer if you’ve got one).
- Put this mixture into a large bowl with the onion, sausage meat, garlic, thyme, brandy, coriander, apricots and the beaten egg. Season very well with salt and pepper.
- Use your hands to squodge all this together. Wear plastic gloves if you don’t like getting messy!
- Put a third of the mixture into the base of the bacon lined loaf tin. Then layer in half the pheasant breast strips that you cut earlier and half the pistachios. Add half of the rest of the minced mixture, then the remaining pheasant strips and pistachios and then cover with the rest of the mince, pressing down with your hands to get rid of any air pockets.
- Bring the overhanging bacon slices over the top of the terrine so the minced mixture is covered and cover the top of the tin with foil.
- Put the tin into a roasting tin. Fill and boil the kettle and pour the water into the roasting tin so that it comes halfway up the loaf tin. The water will protect the meat from the fierce heat of the oven and help keep it moist.
- Carefully, wearing oven gloves, put the whole roasting tin into the oven and bake the terrine for 90 minutes or until the juices run clear when you insert a skewer.
- Carefully take the roasting tin out of the oven and the loaf tin out of the roasting tin. Stand the loaf tin on a tea towel to stop water going everywhere and let it stand for 15 minutes.
- Take the foil off the top of the terrine and replace with new foil. Put a weight on top of the foil – a couple of tins of soup work well, or something similar.
- Let the terrine cool in the tin and when it has cooled, put it in the fridge with the weights on top to set overnight.
- The next day, take the terrine out of the tin and cut it into slices. Serve with pickles and good bread if you are going to eat it straightaway or with some salad as a starter. If you’re keeping it until the Christmas holidays, wrap tightly in clingfilm and freeze it, making sure you take it out of the freezer in good time to defrost before you need it!
We hope that’s given you an idea for some food for the holidays and getting ahead in the planning stakes; there’s always more than enough to do so it you can get something else sorted in advance, then that’s got to be a good thing.