The Prince of Wales is the guest editor of Country Life's November 14 issue, which coincides precisely with his 70th birthday. One of the features commissioned by The Prince shows how to make his favourite dish, pheasant crumble pie. Here's how to make it yourself, as demonstrated by John Williams, executive chef at The Ritz in London.

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‘I got this recipe from someone I know,’ writes HRH The Prince of Wales in this week’s issue of Country Life, which he has guest edited.

‘It is delicious. I invented a grouse one recently, Coq au Vin with Grouse, as well as Moussaka with Grouse (it doesn’t always have to be lamb), in other words Groussaka!’

The man cooking the recipe on this page is John Williams, a chef whose career began with a bag of grouse.

‘I’d just been taken on as an apprentice at The Percy Arms in Northumberland and they wanted me to pluck and gut them,’ The Ritz’s executive chef remembers, sitting in his office before the lunch service begins.

‘It was the first thing I had ever touched in a professional kitchen. I come from a seaside town, so I was much more used to fish and I’d definitely never encountered that aroma before,’ he divulges with a smile. ‘But, you know, today, it’s one of my favourite smells. Come the Glorious Twelfth, I’m outside that door anxiously waiting for the birds to arrive.’


Ingredients

For the stock

  • 1 pheasant
  • 1 medium onion, cut into a medium dice
  • 1 large carrot, cut into a large dice
  • 4 sticks of celery, cut into quarters
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Large sprig of thyme
  • 6 juniper berries
  • 4 peppercorns
  • Splash of sherry

For the roux sauce

  • 40g butter
  • 40g plain flour
  • 290ml pheasant stock
  • Dash of cream
  • Chopped parsley and thyme
  • Seasoning

For the crumble

  • 170g butter
  • 56g white breadcrumbs
  • 28g finely grated Parmesan
  • 2 smoked streaky-bacon rashers

Method

To make the stock, place the whole pheasant in a large saucepan and cover with water. Add all the other ingredients, except the sherry, and cover with a cartouche of baking paper.

Bring to the boil, then turn down to a slow simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, before checking – just inside the leg – that the bird is just cooked.

John Williams, the executive chef at The Ritz in London, cooks The Prince of Wales’s best-loved recipe, pheasant crumble pie

©John Carey/Country Life Picture Library

Next, turn off the heat and leave it in the water for 10 minutes, then remove the bird and cover it with foil.

Bring the poaching liquor back to the boil, reduce until it’s flavoursome, then strain or pass it through a sieve.

In a clean pan, add the sherry and reduce until syrupy, then add the strained poaching liquor and reduce to about 600ml.

John Williams, the executive chef at The Ritz in London, cooks The Prince of Wales’s best-loved recipe, pheasant crumble pie

©John Carey/Country Life Picture Library

Next, make a thick roux by melting the butter in a pan, adding the sieved flour and mixing to a paste. Cook the roux for several minutes, then gradually start adding the pheasant stock, stirring all the time, until it becomes a thick sauce. Add the chopped herbs and cream, then check for seasoning.

Remove the breasts from the pheasant, shred them by pulling the meat lengthways between two forks, add to the sauce and keep warm.

John Williams, the executive chef at The Ritz in London, cooks The Prince of Wales’s best-loved recipe, pheasant crumble pie

©John Carey/Country Life Picture Library

Finally, to make the crumble topping, melt the butter in a frying pan, add the breadcrumbs and stir constantly until they are golden and crispy. Turn them on to kitchen paper to soak up the excess butter and add the Parmesan cheese.

John Williams, the executive chef at The Ritz in London, cooks The Prince of Wales’s best-loved recipe, pheasant crumble pie

©John Carey/Country Life Picture Library

Next, cook the bacon rashers until they are crispy enough to crumble into medium fine pieces and add them to the breadcrumbs.

John Williams, the executive chef at The Ritz in London, cooks The Prince of Wales’s best-loved recipe, pheasant crumble pie

©John Carey/Country Life Picture Library

Place the pheasant and sauce mixture into a pie dish, sprinkle with the crumble and finish in the oven at 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4 until heated through.

John Williams, the executive chef at The Ritz in London, cooks The Prince of Wales’s best-loved recipe, pheasant crumble pie

©John Carey/Country Life Picture Library

For more game and other recipes from the hotel, see John Williams’s ‘The Ritz London: The Cookbook, published in September this year. www.theritzlondon.com

John Williams, the executive chef at The Ritz in London, cooks The Prince of Wales’s best-loved recipe, pheasant crumble pie

©John Carey/Country Life Picture Library