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Recipe: pheasant pie

PUBLISHED: 11:46 27 November 2013 | UPDATED: 11:46 27 November 2013

For a warming autumnal dish - and an introduction to game for novices - pheasant is tasty, yet low in fat and easy to cook.

October 1st is officially the start of pheasant season in Dorset and during the month this truly local game bird will begin to appear in shops, on menus and in my garden. You may be lucky enough to receive a brace - a male and female bird - as a present, but if dealing with a whole bird is not your thing then your local butcher will be happy to offer an ‘oven ready’ option. Pheasant is often a popular choice with those who might not otherwise indulge in game as its flavour is generally quite mild in the gamey sense. It makes a lovely autumnal treat when cooked the right way; as it’s not a fatty meat the breast in particular needs protection and moisture when cooking, so roasted pheasant will always benefit from some streaky bacon laid across the breast.

Some of my most successful pheasant dishes have been when the recipe calls for casseroling, giving the bird plenty of moisture and added flavours as it gently cooks. My all-time favourite one is with apples, chestnuts, calvados and cream. When cooked like this the bird is browned in a little butter in an ovenproof casserole and then set on slices of dessert apple. Chestnuts, a splash of calvados and around 200mls of stock are added, the pot is then covered and placed in a high oven for approximately 45 minutes. When cooked, the bird(s) are removed to rest. To finish add a good splash of double cream. Yum!

As a rule each bird will probably only serve two or three people if casseroling. When it comes to serving, I often remove the meat from the carcass and return it to the sauce. This has the advantage of enabling you to serve everyone with some breast and leg meat, you may also be able to remove any shot that may be lurking.

That all said, this month’s recipe is something a little different. We made these fab little pheasant pies using black pudding from Framptons in Bridport. The beauty of these pies is that the flavour is all sealed in. Serve with red cabbage and some parsnip mash.

Pheasant Pie - Makes 12

For the pastry:

560g plain flour.

Pinch salt.

280g butter.

2 egg yolks.

30-50mls cold water.

For the filling:

400g pheasant breasts, cut into 3cm chunks.

12 rashers smoked, streaky bacon, halved.

180g black pudding, roughly crumbled.

12 prunes, stoned & each cut into 3.

2 tablespoons olive oil.

100ml Somerset brandy.

2 shallots, very finely chopped.

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves.

1 egg, beaten with a little salt for egg wash.

Salt & freshly ground black pepper.

12 hole deep muffin tin.

Method

1 Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6 / 200°C / 400°F. Place all the pastry ingredients in a food processor and whizz until they just come together to form the pastry. Be careful not to over process. Pat the pastry into a flat round and chill for 30 minutes.

2 Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Wrap each piece of pheasant in half a rasher of streaky bacon and set to one side. In a large bowl mix together the black pudding, prunes, olive oil, brandy, shallots and thyme and season well.

3 On a lightly floured surface roll out the chilled pastry to approx. 3-4mm thick. Cut out 12 rounds approx. 12 cm diameter and use to line the muffin wells. The pastry should rise above the edge of each well to create a raised edge.

4 Divide the wrapped pheasant (2 per pie) and filling mix between the lined wells, ensuring each is nicely packed with mixture.

5 From the remaining pastry cut out 12 generous lids. Brush one side of each lid with egg wash and place brushed side down on the pies. Seal well around the edges and cut a slit in the top of each. Glaze the top of each pie.

6 Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until golden and piping hot. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly in the tin for 15 minutes before carefully removing.

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