November 22, 2012


The Random Recipe Challenge for the month of November revolves around a birthday.  My birthday, or at least the birthday of each person who takes part.  My birthday is on the 11th so I counted the 11th book from the left on my middle shelf of cookbooks.


Then I noticed that the lovely Dom of Bellau Kitchen, the originator of the Random Recipe Challenge, had counted his books from the right.  Oh well, I’ve started so I’ll finish……


I picked out this book of recipes from the first TV series of “The great British food revival”, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Every time I see a bag of Kenyan green beans I think there is something fundamentally wrong with our food industry.  When I bought a pack of two ready-made sponge puddings in Tesco, called “Auntie’s puddings”, then discovered they were made in New Zealand, I was gobsmacked.  They were quite cheap and that suggested that most of the cost of putting them on the shelves was in transport and packaging.  They certainly tasted like it.  The supermarkets have a lot to answer for.

So the ideas behind the GBFR really appealed to me.  To buy locally produced food which is in season surely has to be better than what we do now.  The TV series also champions British foods that are in danger of becoming “extinct”.  Once they’re gone, they’re probably gone forever and that is something I find sad.  When the only beans we can buy are Kenyan beans with more air miles than flavour, it will be a very sad day indeed.

Anyway, I flipped the pages and turned up a recipe for braised pheasant.  Braised with cider an apples because it was in the apple section of the book, presented in the TV series by the handsome Yorkshireman, James Martin.

TV chef James Martin, very handsome.


The melanistic pheasant.  Handsome and also tasty.

(Picture from Google images.)

If Nick was a better shot we could have pheasant every week.  There are fields and a small wood on the other side of our back garden hedge and lots of pheasants find their way into our garden to feed on the seeds that fall out of our bird feeders.  The most we have ever seen at the same time in our back garden was sixteen male and female pheasants, including a bottle green melanistic male pheasant – a magnificent creature indeed.  On the one hand I feel slightly in awe of the beauty of all these birds congregating in my garden.  On the other I feel annoyed that they ruin the lawn by pecking at the grass.  On the third hand I can’t help wondering how good they would look in our freezer.


Curiously, although the recipe is in James Martin’s apple section of the book it is actually a Blanche Vaughan recipe, published on the Guardian website and you can see it here.  It appears in the book word for word as per the Guardian article, and on closer inspection it seems that Blanche Vaughan is responsible for most of the recipes in the book…….you live and learn.



We bought the pheasants from our local farm shop.  We planned to cook them for a Sunday evening dinner and got all the ingredients ready.  So it was really frustrating to discover that I didn’t have a jar of juniper berries in the house – I was sure I had some but they were nowhere to be found.  A bit of Googling suggested that you can substitute one teaspoon of gin for every two juniper berries so that’s what we did.  I say “we” because Nick did most of the work, jointing the pheasants and cooking them.


The pheasants were delicious.  I was particularly impressed with the apples slices, fried in butter before adding to the dish.  I would normally shy away from a fiddly, faffy bit of a recipe like this, but it was well worth doing.  We didn’t stick entirely to the timing, not cooking the legs for the extra time suggested, and that seemed to work for us.  We only used half the amount of cider, i.e. one 500ml tin not two, as only one would fit in our pan.  Oh and we didn’t serve it with mashed celeriac, just ordinary boiled spuds !!


We do eat pheasant every so often, but this way of cooking it with apples made it more special as well as delicious.  We have cooked a number of recipes from this book already but once again I am grateful to Dom and his RR Challenge for getting me to cook a recipe that I hadn’t noticed before.

Our version of pheasant braised with cider and apples


2 large pheasants

2 tblsp olive oil

100g smoked bacon lardons

100g shallots, sliced

4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme, stripped

8 juniper berries, or 4 teaspoons (a small glug) of gin

500ml cider

500ml chicken stock

150ml crème fraîche

25g butter

4 dessert apples, peeled and cored

juice of 1 lemon


Joint the pheasants.  Follow the instructions on the recipe link here.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the seasoned pheasant joints.  Brown all over and remove to a dish.  Put the bacon in the pan and fry until crisp.  Add the shallots and thyme leaves and cook until soft, about 2 minutes.

Return the pheasant to the pan.  Add the juniper berries/gin and pour in the cider.  Boil for one minute then add the stock.  Season well and reduce to a simmer.  Cover with a piece of baking parchment then the pan lid and cook for about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and core, and slice the apples into eighths and put in a dish with the lemon juice to prevent browning.  In a large frying pan, melt the butter then fry the apple pieces.  Allow to brown without turning too often.

Remove the meat and keep warm.  Boil the liquid for several minutes to reduce and thicken.  Whisk in the crème fraîche.  Return the meat to the pan.  Add the apples and serve.

Serves 4.


  1. From the left... From the right... Who cares?!? If thus stunning dish is the result then all is good with the world! I made this exact dish earlier this year and loved it. Pheasants are very bony but once you get past that they are delightful. Lovely entry. Thank you c x

  2. Scrummy pheasant.... Baron, go and find another!
    And they aren't ruining your lawn... they are improving it... it saves you going round with an aerator! Starlings do the same.
    The lawn drains better and doesn't get the "moss troubles", so count them as a double blessing.
    Great shot of that melanistic pheasant too.

    1. Tim, I will try to remember that when I am looking at large bare patches of my back lawn next spring !! Maybe I should scatter seeds over the rest of the lawn to see if they will do that as well !!

      Sadly, I can't claim to have taken the photo of the pheasant (or of the equally tasty James Martin!) - I got both from Google images, but thought people might like to know what a melanistic pheasant, as opposed to a regular pheasant, looks like.

  3. Looks really lovely! We had pheasant for Christmas eve dinner a couple of years ago, and it was a bit of an epic team effort, including having to watch YouTube videos of how to pluck and gut the birds - was worth it though!!!

  4. I've only eaten pheasant once and, if I could be permitted to place drop, it was at a company Christmas do in the restaurant in the Eiffel Tower. Very posh and the pheasant had shot in it, which I am told is the sign that it is a genuine wild bird. "Okie dokie," I said. This looks spectacular and I hope to live someday in a place where one can buy pheasant (or shoot one in one's garden) so I can try it.

  5. This sounds lovely but are you suggesting that not all the recipes presented by TV chefs are their own work? I'm shocked. Actually, this is almost identical to the dish that I used to eat in a local restaurant about twenty years ago. Not surprisingly the chef was from Normandy. I think he used a dash of genièvre rather than gin.