As a wild game bird, pheasant requires to be cooked very carefully if it is not to be served tough, dry and unpalatable. There are several ways in which this can be achieved, usually involving either very quick cooking at a high temperature or long, slow cooking at a lower temperature. In this instance, bacon is employed to lend its fatty content to the incredibly lean pheasant meat and this alternative middle cooking period worked extremely well.

Cherry Stuffed Pheasant Breast with Leek Mash
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Cherry stuffed and bacon wrapped pheasant breast with sauteed leek mash and apple sauce

Ingredients (Serves 1)

  • 1 green cooking suitable apple (Bramley apple used in this instance)
  • ½ cup apple cider
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 medium sized baking potatoes
  • Salt
  • 1 skinless pheasant breast fillet
  • 3 or 4 glace (candied) cherries
  • 3 or 4 strips of bacon (smoked streaky bacon, UK), or as required to wrap fillet
  • Black pepper
  • ¼ stick (1 ounce) butter
  • 2 inch piece of leek stem
  • 1 cup frozen garden peas

Directions

Apple Sauce Ingredients
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Apple sauce ingredients

Peel and core the apple and chop the flesh in to approximately three-quarter inch chunks. Add them to a saucepan along with the lemon juice, the sugar and two tablespoons only of the apple cider.

Apple Sauce
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Apple soon starts to break down and form sauce

Put the saucepan on to a medium to high heat just until the liquid content begins to simmer. Reduce the heat slightly at that stage but not too much and stir with a wooden spoon until the apple has fully broken down and a lush sauce is formed. This should only take a few minutes. Turn off the heat, lift the saucepan to a cool part of your stove, put the lid in place and leave to cool completely while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Potatoes
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Potato pieces are put on to cook by boiling

Peel the potatoes, chop to around one and a half inch chunks and steep for ten minutes or so in cold water. Drain, add to a pot with fresh water and season with salt. Bring to a simmer for twenty to twenty-five minutes until just softened.

Glace Cherries
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Glace cherries

Glace cherries are cherries which have been dried and candied with sugar. They are commonly used in baking. They were used here as a sweeter alternative to fresh cherries which can be bitter, especially when cooked. They were however washed thoroughly in lukewarm water before being used to remove some of the sugar.

Cherries on Pheasant
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Chopped cherries are laid on breast fillet and seasoned

As soon as the potatoes are on to cook, put your oven on to preheat to 375F/190C/Gas Mark 5.

Wash the cherries as described above and chop in to quarters. Lay them in a strip along the center of the pheasant fillet and season with a little black pepper only.

Pheasant Sides Lifted
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Pheasant breast fillet sides are lifted up to enclose cherries

Carefully lift up the two sides of the pheasant fillet to enclose the cherries and wrap with the strips of bacon.

Oven Ready Fillet
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Bacon wrapped pheasant fillet is ready for baking

Lay the bacon wrapped fillet in the base of a casserole dish and pour over the remainder of the cider. Put the lid on the dish and place it in to the heated oven for eighteen to twenty minutes.

Leek in Butter
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Sliced leek is added to melting butter

Put the butter in to a small saucepan and put the pan on to a low heat. Wash the leek stem piece and slice to discs around a quarter inch thick. Add to the melting butter and season with black pepper.

Sauteing Leek
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Leek is gently sauteed in butter

Saute the leeks in the butter for a few minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon, until they have opened out and are just softened. Turn off the heat and set briefly aside.

Resting Pheasant
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Pheasant fillet is removed from oven and left to rest

Take the casserole dish from the oven and lift the wrapped pheasant fillet to a heated plate with a slotted spoon. Cover with aluminum foil and leave for a few minutes to rest.

Mashing Potatoes
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Hand masher is used to mash potatoes

Drain the potatoes through a colander at your sink and leave them to steam off for a few minutes. If you don't allow this period of rest before you mash them, your mash will be soggy as the steam represents escaping liquid. Return the pieces to the pot and mash with a hand masher.

Boiling Peas
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Frozen peas are added to boiling water

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and add the frozen peas. Bring back to a simmer for three minutes.

Leek in Mash
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Leek and butter are added to mashed potato

Pour the leek and butter combination in to the mashed potatoes and stir well to fully combine.

Halved Pheasant Fillet
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Rested pheasant fillet is cut in half

Cut the bacon wrapped pheasant fillet in half with a very sharp knife at a slight angle.

Apple Sauce Bed
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Apple sauce is spread on serving plate

Spoon the apple sauce in to the center of a square serving plate, spreading it out just enough that it can serve as a bed for the pheasant.

Pheasant on Apple Sauce
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Pheasant halves are arranged on apple sauce

Lift one half of the wrapped pheasant on to the apple bed and prop the second half partly on top of it as shown above.

Plated Mash
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Mash quenelles are laid in corners of serving plate

The French technique of quenelle was employed to shape the potato and leek mix for plating. This involves shaping them by using two dessert sized spoons in to approximate bullet shapes. One quenelle was placed at each of the four corners of the plate. If you wish, you can simply spoon the mash on to the plate in whichever shape.

Drain the peas through a colander at your sink, season with a little black pepper and spoon on to the four empty sides of the plate before serving.

Eating Pheasant
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Enjoying cherry stuffed pheasant bread with leek mash