Chef Annie Assheton says: "I love the pairing of quince with pheasant and in this recipe I have also added chestnuts to the mix; they are three very distinctive and different flavours that work together incredibly well to create something that is a proper celebration of this glorious bird."
Although the word ‘ballotine’ suggests that this is a difficult recipe it is in fact very simple. A ballotine is simply boned meat rolled around a stuffed filling and cooked. Ballotine is perfect for entertaining because you can brown your pheasant ballotine in advance and then just stick it in the oven when you’re ready. This means minimal last minute work. (Annie is an ambassador for Farlows and you can read more of Annie’s tips for cooking game here.)
Pheasant Ballotine with Quince and Chestnut by Annie Assheton
Serves 4 as part of a multi-course dinner or 2 very hungry people
When grating the quince, you need to be ready with lemon juice in a bowl so it doesn’t go brown, which happens very quickly. I use the coarse side of a box grater and a fair bit of determination but if you don’t have access to quince you can use cooking apples instead; just add them to the onions after the latter have cooled. When wrapping the pheasant in cling film, a great tip is to wipe your worktop down with a damp cloth before laying it on top. The small amount of water holds the cling film in place, making it much easier to deal with.
- ½ onion, finely diced
- 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
- Pinch each: cinnamon, coriander and cumin
- ½ small quince (about 300g when whole), grated and mixed with ½ lemon, juice only
- Knob of butter
- 50g cooked peeled chestnuts, chopped
- 4 pheasant breasts
- 4 rashers unsmoked streaky bacon
- 150ml sherry
- 1 tbsp quince jelly
Soften the onion with a big pinch of salt in half the rapeseed oil over a low heat and when it is translucent add the spices. Allow them to cook for a minute or two and then add the grated quince and knob of butter. Cook for five minutes or so until the quince is soft but not mushy. Add the chopped chestnuts and leave in a bowl to cool.
Take two pheasant breasts and open out the mini fillets. Spoon a line of stuffing down the middle of one and top with the second, sitting the broader end of the top one over the narrower end of the other. Stretch out two of the bacon rashers with the back of a knife and use them to wrap the pheasant parcel. Wrap it all tightly in cling film, knotting the ends so you have a secure ballotine. Leave in the fridge and repeat with the other two breasts.
It is a good idea to leave the parcels in the fridge for a couple of hours to firm up as it helps them to hold their shape better when cooking – or indeed prepare them the day before and leave them overnight.
To cook the pheasant, pre-heat an oven to 200°C. Heat the second tablespoon of rapeseed oil in an oven proof frying pan. Unwrap the cling film and brown the ballotine thoroughly on all sides. If you are finishing it off straight away, put it all in the oven for ten minutes and then take the pheasant out of the pan, wrap the ballotine in foil and leave in a warm place to rest.
If you want to brown the ballotine in advance, allow them to cool, put them in the fridge until needed but for the final cook give them 15 minutes in the oven. Either way, when they have come out of the oven and are resting in foil, put the pan back on the heat, add the sherry and give it all a good scrape and stir. Once the sherry has reduced by about half add the quince jelly and stir until it has dissolved, letting it bubble away so that the sauce thickens. When you unwrap the foil, tip any juices into the sauce.
Cut the ballotine into 1cm slices and serve with celeriac and chestnut mash and cavolo nero, or something similar.
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The beauty of the pheasant ballotine is that it looks very impressive when sliced and put on a plate – but in fact it’s very easy to create.