Apart from reiterating that pheasants come from India, there not a ton to say about this recipe other than it comes from Gary Rhodes at the time of ‘peak Gary’ in 1999. In that year, Rhodes was all over TV, and had a popular show on BBC where he treated classic British dishes to the most painstaking levels of care and attention. The clip of him finishing a shepherd’s pie was pure food porn.
The TV series spun out a book, and in it is this pheasant dish. The apple booze makes it additionally seasonal.
More interesting is the pearl barley. Serving pheasant with barley speaks directly to the idea that a huntsmen ought to try to cook a beast with the food the beast eats itself. This make a lot of sense because the feed is in season at the same time the animal is shot. Anyone who has prepared a pheasant from the field will know that the gizzard is full of grain.
This idea of ‘food for the goose,’ has been reinforced by Forager Prime Marco Pierre White, who routinely plunders the hedgerows while he takes game from the sky.
Roast pheasant with whisky cream sauce
- For the birds:
- 2 oven-ready hen pheasants
- 4 juniper berries, lightly crushed
- 2 fresh thyme sprigs
- Butter, melted for brushing
- 4 tbsp white breadcrumbs, fried until crispy
- For the barley:
- 175g bacon lardons
- 25g butter, melted
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 600ml chicken stock
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- For the sauce:
- 1 small carrot, roughly chopped
- 2 shallots, roughly chopped
- 1 large handful of mushrooms, quartered
- 8 tbsp Scotch whisky
- 300ml chicken stock
- 150ml double cream
Begin by prepping the pheasants. Season the birds inside and out. Push the juniper and herbs inside, and brush liberally with the butter.
Next, cook the barley. Rinse the grains under a cold tap. Cook the bacon and onion in the butter in a saucepan until gilded. Add the barley, cover with the stock, lid the pan and cook on low for 40 mins until the barley is done.
While the barley is cooking, you can cook the pheasants. Heat an oven to 190˚C. Put a roasting an on the hob and heat 2 tbsp cooking oil in it. Add the vegetables and mushrooms, and leave room for the birds in the middle. Place them breast side down in the pan and brown both sides of the brewers Flip them over onto their backs and roast in the oven for 15 mins. Then, turn them back onto their breasts, and cook in the oven for another 15 mins. Remove the tray from the oven and spoon over 6 tbsp of the whisky over the roasted pheasants. Remove the pheasants, tip their juices onto the pan and let them rest breast sides down.
While the pheasants are resting, the sauce can be done. Heat the roasting pan over the hob and add the chicken stock to deglaze. Reduce by half and add the cream. Simmer 6 mins. Strain the sauce through a sieve and add another splash of neat whisky.
To serve, carve the legs and breasts off the birds, and splash the last of the whisky on the exposed flesh. Add the parsley to the barley, and serve with the meat and the sauce poured over. Sprinkle everything with the breadcrumbs.