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Coronation pheasant recipe – from field to fork

Leon Challis-Davies wants to see more people eating game, but good recipes, like this one for coronation pheasant, are key to tempting them

I look forward to what 2023 holds for wild, sustainable game meat. I’ve seen venison stews served by the NHS, Kentucky fried partridge legs at Le Bab and pheasant sausage rolls on the menu at Drake & Morgan. These are big companies flying the flag for game meat, which got me thinking. What more can I do in 2023 to move the dial? Simple: keep producing recipes that are easy to follow and bring people from all walks of life into eating more game, and educate the public on the importance of an assurance chain in the game meat sector. 

When I got a call from Stuart Eborall of Warwickshire Wild Game, asking if I would like to head out on a walked-up day with his well-trained dogs, I didn’t need asking twice. The morning started with a safety briefing at Stuart’s house, then we were off. The recent rain had caused havoc, with thick, churned-up mud making it difficult to get the vehicles through, but we made it. 

Leon Challis-Davies takes the shot at a long crossing pheasant that’s destined for the pan


Crossed fingers

Stuart wanted to work his two dogs, black labrador Teal and black-and-white cocker Dotty. As soon as we pulled up to the covercrop of sugar beet, without my gun in my hand, two beautiful cock birds took flight ahead of us. We were only just getting ready, but thankfully the dogs knew exactly where the birds had landed, so we crossed our fingers that we could get on to them shortly. 

The day was a dull grey and carried a real threat of rain, but I was so excited about my recipe and optimistic about the day in general that I forgot my waterproofs, making it a challenging one indeed.

We thought we would walk the hedge lines to the first copse. It didn’t take long before we were on to birds, although I wanted pheasant for lunch. Our first shot could have been at a couple of pigeons flushed by the hard-working Dotty and Teal, but I had decided to wait for the golden prize pheasant and I wasn’t compromising. 

We headed down the steep hill across the beet, and you could clearly see that all sorts of of wildlife had been working its way through it, thanks to some droppings and the odd carcass. Stuart told me he’d have to head back one night to keep on top of fox numbers. 

I stopped at the bottom of the hill to set up, with Teal, Dotty and Stuart walking through the woods of thick bracken, dead trees and coarse brambles. I wondered if anything would come out. With me at the end, we waited with a real sense of nervous anticipation. It didn’t take long.

Coronation pheasant recipe

Leon is all smiles as he makes the naan bread by hand, which will accompany the pheasant


First bird

Our first pheasant of the day came out just in front of me to my right. I took my chance. With barrel one emptied, we had our first bird for the pot. At the shock on everyone’s faces and a few comments from Stuart reminding me what I was like on the rabbits a few weeks back, redemption was sweet. 

Pigeons in the back of my mind, I thought I’d have a crack at one coming over, which had left a rape field where they were feeding in number. It was a high bird but down
it came, two for two. Teal the labrador executed a textbook retrieve, gathering the bird wonderfully softly in her mouth and carrying it straight into Stuart’s hands. 

Continuing away from the copse, we walked back along the hedge line through the field to another dense woodland, this time of fir trees. Dotty and Teal headed to the end of the wood as I again stood on the outside on the corner, waiting for at least one more bird for lunch. As I stood there, I was reminded of why we all love the British countryside. The variety of animals coming out was spectacular; deer, pockets of pigeons, the pesky crow — and to top it off, the graceful woodcock. The bleak, dull day brightened up instantly. 

Coronation pheasant recipe

The shot pheasant is breasted by Stuart Eborall before being cooked in duck fat on an open log fire

Back up towards the trucks we headed, passing a release pen, with Teal and Dotty once again dashing off into the woodland, sniffing and looking out for me. 

Along the walk, another wonderful flushed bird burst out of the fir trees into my line of sight. We had our second of the day. Again, I cannot fault the dogs, who were working hard and retrieving another bird so carefully to ensure they wouldn’t ruin the meat. What a job Stuart has done training these dogs, honing their natural instincts beautifully. We agreed we had enough for the pot, so back up the hedge line we walked to where we were parked. I was looking forward to cooking and showing off my recipe — coronation pheasant. 

Stuart said that he would push the last of the covercrop back up to where we needed to be if I was the opposite side of the hedge. I did lose sight of him, but could see both dogs working in zigzag patterns across the cover. With a shout of ‘over’, one last cock bird flew back. Now, I would have had a better chance of shooting it if I was looking in the right direction, and that was a proper slap-on-the-forehead moment. The bird flew over behind and away. I quickly managed to get both barrels off on it, but without any luck. It didn’t matter. It was lunchtime and we were all hungry after a stunning morning’s shooting, and on the menu was coronation pheasant. 


Coronation pheasant – cooking the birds

Pheasant breasts went into a ziplock bag with 2tbsp of oil for four breasts and 3tbsp of curry powder, left for a good 30 minutes. While the pheasant was marinating, I made a four-ingredient naan by mixing 250g yoghurt, 230g self-raising flour, 2tbsp olive oil and 5g black onion seeds. Everything was formed into a dough and left to rest. 

For the dip, about 20g each of fresh coriander and mint were chopped up into about 200ml of natural yoghurt with the juice of half a lime and a squeeze of lemon, and a pinch of zest from each as well. 

Any lettuce of choice can be used, with grated fresh coconut, toasted almonds, lime and lemon zest sprinkled over the top, along with coriander and mint, spring onions, pomegranate seeds and radishes. 

I rolled out the naan into four even-sized balls, aiming for a side-plate-size pancake. The naan went into the dry pan until golden brown on both sides, roughly five to seven minutes. Putting duck fat into my oiled pan on the log fire, in went the marinated breasts for six to nine minutes. 

Once cooked, I chopped the breasts up and mixed them with mayonnaise — always buy quality mayonnaise. Take a naan, add mango chutney, a dollop of mint yoghurt, lettuce leaves and salad finished with the coronation pheasant. Fold in half and proceed to the flavour bomb.

I left one breast plain for Teal and Dotty for working so hard. 

Coronation pheasant recipe

Coronation pheasant is served in a fresh naan with Leon’s toppings of choice to finish it