A dead pheasant or rabbit at the side of the road doesn't always have to go to waste, says celebrated food writer Rose Prince
Drive down any lane in the heady days of summer and there will be a pheasant, rabbit or something less edible that has taken a knock from a car. It is a fact taken into account by shoots; a percentage of the game birds they put down will not be killed by Guns but taken out by motorists.
Pheasant roadkill in the larder
Roadkill is a tremendous waste, however. Campaigns to eat more shot game are worthwhile, but so is it right to recognise the contribution that roadkill makes to the public larder.
That is, of course, within reason. Unless fresh and the meat not all too badly damaged or bruised, the victim cannot be recycled.
It still feels peculiar to eat pheasant in the summer, but a recently killed pheasant on my kitchen table offers an opportunity to prepare it with ingredients of a different season. So, no bread sauce and game chips but summer berries and leaves.
In season from now until February 1 (you already know that), pheasant is the perfect alternative to the all too…
Preparation and cooking
Before cooking though there is a little pre-preparation to administer. The question as to whether roadkill should be hung before cooking is a matter for your judgement. Obviously if the pheasant was not killed by the car in front of yours, it is not possible to know precisely when it died. Still-wet blood is a sign of freshness, as is body temperature. But a good specimen with plenty of unspoiled meat on it that is cold should be fine to eat. I would forego hanging it except at a low fridge temperature of 3°C to 4°C.
Wash off any mud or other dirt before you cut into the bird. If there are open wounds, cut away all the flesh and discard. The main damage to my scavenged pheasant was in the wing and one leg, but the breast meat was flawless.
Serves two as a starter.
To smoke the pheasant over the hob you will need some woodchips, foil, a casserole pan with lid and a steamer tray that fits inside the pan.
For the salad:
- 2 pheasant breasts
- 2 tbsp sherry
- 2 tbsp wild strawberries or redcurrants
- A handful of sorrel leaves or baby leaf salad
For the dressing:
- 1 tsp sherry vinegar
- 1 tbsp hazelnut oil
- Sea salt
1. Marinate the pheasant breasts in the sherry for 30 minutes, then pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Place a circle of foil in the base of the pan and sprinkle woodchips over it to a depth of 1cm. Place a second circle of foil over the chips, then place the steamer tray on top.
2. Put the pheasant breasts on to the steamer tray, put on the lid then cover the lid with foil to prevent smoke escaping. Place over a high heat for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to medium low and smoke for another 10 minutes. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then open the lid (take the pan outside to do this) and lift out the pheasant breasts.
3. You can slice the pheasant breasts or leave them whole. Dress with the leaves and strawberries, then mix the dressing ingredients together and spoon over the meat.
Food writer, campaigner and cook, Rose Prince writes a weekly column for the Daily Telegraph and is the author of three best-selling cook books.