With ‘fusion food’ so popular now, piri-piri pheasant is bang on trend and the younger generation will absolutely love it, says Cai ap Bryn

At the end of the season I like to make preparations for the freezer. I breast a lot of birds, take out the thighs and freeze a few birds whole.

I don’t often cook the birds whole, particularly with pheasant, because I find the legs tend to contain a few sinews and I prefer to separate the legs and breasts. 
I cook the legs slowly, while I often pan-fry the breasts.

There is a little trick with this; simply score around the knee of the bird — not cutting too deep, just enough to break the skin. Then hold the bird upside down, twist the foot around 360° and slowly pull. This should pull out some of the main sinews, which will help. Whenever I am cooking game birds whole, I try to obtain young ones as they are more tender. I save the older birds for slower cooking, mincing and pies.

The method in this piri piri pheasant recipe will lock in as much moisture as possible. Pheasant, being a hardy bird, can dry out pretty quickly due to a lack of inter-muscular fats. I use a brine for this; I have mentioned this in previous recipes but 
it really can make a difference.

Piri-piri is a Portuguese-African fusion that really suits poultry and game birds with white meat. It’s mildly spicy and bursting with flavour — a very tasty dish that will convert people who are not used to game into eating it.

With popular high street restaurants capitalising on this, it should be a surefire winner, especially with the younger generation.

Piri-piri pheasant recipe

You will need one prepared pheasant

Ingredients and method for the brine

  • 1.25l water
  • 3 TBSP salt
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon, squeezed and zested
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 diced bird’s eye chilli pepper

1. Mix the sugar and salt in a splash of hot water to dissolve, then add all the ingredients to the water and mix well.
2. Spatchcock the pheasant by removing the backbone on both sides, then open up and press down on the breasts until the bird is flat.
3. Place it in a deep dish, cover with the brine and leave overnight.
4. The following day, remove from the brine, rinse very lightly then pat dry.

Ingredients and method to make piri-piri marinade

  • 1⁄2 small onion
  • 1⁄2 tsp celery salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1⁄2 tsp black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1⁄2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1tsp salt flakes
  • 1 bird’s eye chilli  OR TO TASTE

1. Place all ingredients in a blender, blitz with a splash of water and rub all over the brined pheasant. Set aside for a few hours in the fridge to let the marinade work. You can make this less messy if you put the bird in a bag, pour in the marinade and seal the bag, then work it all over.
2. Put the pheasant in an oven dish and place in a preheated oven at 160°C for 40 minutes, covered with foil so it gently steams.
3. Place the pheasant under a medium grill and brown for 10 to 15 minutes to colour and char the skin. You can do this on a barbecue, patience and weather permitting.
4. Put the pheasant on a dish with potato wedges — I make mine with a sprinkle of onion, celery, paprika, garlic salt and groundnut oil and bake in an oven at 190°C for 40 minutes.

5. Serve with fresh salad and home-made coleslaw. This piri-piri pheasant recipe is a superb dish that will win over a barbecue party or a casual evening at home. I like to wash it down with a Beavertown Gamma Ray American pale ale, a juicy beer with tropical notes that goes well with the spices of this dish.