However much you love game meat, you need some new recipes to tantalise the taste buds, says Tim Maddams
It’s always a challenge to come up with new, different ways of cooking pheasant breast. More often than not, I will have skinned the birds and removed the useful breast and leg meat as I go along. The freezer will steadily fill up with vacuum-packed pheasant protein and over the winter we will eat our way through this tasty bounty.
This little version has a rather Alsace feeling to it. I like the combination of the smoky pheasant breast with the sweet and tangy roasted squash, while the pickled cabbage lifts it up and the green sauce stops it being too rich or flat.
You could amp up the Alsace by swapping the squash for sauerkraut and adding a creamy mustard sauce, but I prefer a lighter version. The choice is yours — whatever you prefer.
The magic here is curing and smoking the pheasant breast to produce a new level of salty, sweet, smoky nirvana that has hitherto been the stuff of local legend.
Types of smoking There are, generally speaking, two types of smoking: cold smoking and hot smoking. It is the heated…
To smoke the pheasant
If you do not have a hot smoker, a couple of deep baking trays and a wire cooling rack can be pressed into service but you will need to seal the edges with foil to stop all the smoke escaping. You will also need some good hardwood shavings — I have used a mix of oak and beech. You can use all sorts of hardwoods but avoid pine for flavour reasons and yew because it’s toxic. Depending on shape, size and how hot your smoking chamber gets, it can take between 8 and 12 minutes to get a good smoke.
To make the cure :
- 100g pure dried vacuum salt
- 100g golden granulated sugar
- 20 peppercorns, crushed
- 3 juniper berries, crushed
- 4 fresh bay leaves, chopped
To cure the pheasant
You will need 4 good pheasant breasts, well trimmed ready for the cure.
Place the pheasant breasts in a non-reactive container — you can use ceramic or stainless steel, but not aluminium.
Season the breasts liberally with the cure mix and leave for 30 minutes. The breasts should then be rinsed, dried and left exposed to the air on a rack to become a little sticky – this creates a layer of altered protein called a pellicle that will act as a surface for the smoke particulates to cling to.
Once the pellicle has formed, load the pheasant breasts into the hot smoker and set it over a heat source (see left).
If you are not sure that the meat is fully cooked, fry the breasts for a few minutes in a little hot butter over a medium heat on the stove.
Cut the squash in half once you have given it a good wash – I have used a spaghetti squash but you can use whatever you can get hold of. Place the halves cut side down on a baking tray with some olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme. Bake in a hot oven until tender and then allow to cool. Scoop out and discard the seeds, scrape out the flesh and season it well, add any oil from the tray and perhaps a little finely chopped garlic, and pop on the stove to keep warm.
Make a drop of herb dressing by blending 2 cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon of capers, the juice of one lemon, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a good sprig of parsley, another of mint and as much olive oil as it takes in the blender.
I like pickled cabbage fresh and crunchy so all I do is shred the cabbage as finely as I can and season well with salt and pepper. I then simply dress it very lightly with red-wine or cider vinegar.
To serve, slice the pheasant, place it alongside a little of the roasted squash and drizzle with the green sauce.