Friday, 11 November 2011

P is for... Potted pheasant and partridge with plum pickle and poppyseed plait.

When Autumn hits us in the face with its burnished hues and chilly winds, my mind always turns to game. Delicious game. What can cheer a dark night's dinner plate more than a generous helping of wild, forest meats? This potted pheasant and partridge on hot buttered toast hits the spot perfectly and also makes for an excellent home-made Christmas gift for food-loving friends and family. 

Potted pheasant and partridge

Potted pheasant and partridge

I couldn't possibly have P night without including some kind of potted "P" (sorry), especially considering Richard's three excellent "potted" shows: the Olivier-nominated Potted Potter, the cutlass-wielding Potted Pirates and the festive firecracker, Potted Panto - which will be on at the Vaudeville Theatre this Christmas. Get your tickets booked before the show sells out!

1 pheasant
1 partridge
8 rashers of smoked back bacon
1 large onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
Goose or duck fat
1 litre of pheasant and partridge stock (for which you will need, 1 pheasant and 1 partridge carcass, 2 carrots, an onion, a few cloves of garlic, a leek, a stick of celery, a scattering of black peppercorns, a few sprigs of thyme and a couple of bay leaves)
Half a bottle of fruity red wine
A pinch of mace
A suspicion of nutmeg
1 star anise, finely ground in a pestle and mortar
A few sprigs of thyme
Bay leaves
Salt and pepper

3 x 350ml kilner jars, sterilised.

Preheat your oven to 200°C (180°C fan)

First, for the messy bit (which you can easily ask your butcher to do for you if you don't want to get your hands dirty): skin and de-bone your birds and remove any pieces of shot. Next, place the carcasses on a roasting tray and pop them into your preheated oven for half an hour before transferring them into a large pan. Roasting the bones will give your stock a much richer flavour, but if you're short on time, or can't be bothered, just bung your raw bones straight into a pan. Add the roughly chopped veg for your stock (see above), herbs and peppercorns and pour over enough water to cover. Scatter over some salt and bring it all up to the boil, before reducing the heat and leaving it to simmer for a few hours. There you have plenty of pheasant and partridge stock to be going on with for P's feast and beyond.

Fry your onion and garlic in a dessertspoonful of goose/duck fat until very soft. Pour over your red wine and reduce by half. Add your stock and the sprigs of thyme and reduce by half again. Season generously and reduce by half again. Remove the thyme and leave to cool.

Preheat your oven to 160°C (140°C fan)

Now, turn your attention back to your meat. You need to chop the pheasant, partridge and bacon quite finely, so it starts to resemble mince. Place all the minced meat in a large pyrex bowl with a couple of tbsp of goose fat. Add the star anise, nutmeg and mace along with a generous scattering of salt and ground black pepper. Pour over the cold red wine reduction and mix the whole lot together until thoroughly combined. Fry a little of the mixture to taste for seasoning, adding more if necessary. When satisfied, fill your sterilised kilner jars about 3/4 of the way up and place a single bay leaf on top. Leave the lids open. Transfer the jars to a roasting tin and fill the tin with enough water to go halfway up the jars. Pop them in the oven for 2 1/2 hours. Once out of the oven, immediately close the lids and leave to cool. The potted pheasant and partridge will last, unopened in a cool, dark cupboard for up to a month, but once opened, it must be refrigerated and eaten within three days. 

Plum pickle

Plum pickle

I wanted to keep my plum pickle properly plummy, so didn't add any of the extra usual suspects like raisins, currants or apples, but if you want to turn this into more of an old fashioned chutney, go ahead and add away. 

1 punnet of plums (I used Victoria because that's what I found, but you can use what you like), stoned and chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
A finger of ginger, grated
A cinnamon stick
A scattering of black peppercorns
1 tsp salt
2 heaped tbsp soft brown sugar
1/2 pint white wine vinegar

2 small sterilised jam jars (or 1 large, whatever you have)

Simply bung the lot in a heavy bottomed saucepan, stir until the sugar has dissolved (don't stir so hard you break up the plums too much at this stage). Stop stirring, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and leave to simmer for about three quarters of an hour or until thick and sticky. Taste for sweet/sharpness and seasoning, adjust if necessary and cook through again if needed. Fish out the cinnamon stick and the peppercorns if you want to and then transfer into your sterilised jam jars. Place a small disc of wax paper over their tops if you want to and immediately pop the lids on.

Poppyseed plait

Poppyseed plait 

1 tsp caster sugar
7.5 fl.oz/ 220ml warm water
1 x 7g sachets fast-acting yeast
15oz/ 375g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
1oz/ 25g cooled melted butter or 2 tbsp olive oil

In a measuring jug, mix the sugar with a third of the warm water and the yeast. You don't need to leave it to stand with fast-acting yeast. Sift the flour and salt together in a large bowl and make a well in the middle for the cooled melted butter or oil, the yeast mixture and most of the remaining water. Mix the lot together, adding the remaining water if needed. Knead the dough for about ten minutes or until the dough is smooth, elastic and springy to touch. Place the dough in a large, oiled bowl, top with cling film and leave to prove for an hour or two somewhere warm, until the dough has doubled in size. I always bung mine in the airing cupboard.

Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan)

Knock back the dough, by punching it so it deflates. Knead the dough again for another couple of minutes and leave to rest for about 10 minutes. Cut the dough into three equal pieces and roll each piece into a long sausage. Pinch the ends together and plait. Transfer to a floured baking tray, tuck the ends underneath to make it look neater, cover the top with a clean tea towel and place somewhere warm to double in size. Brush the top with an egg wash and scatter the top with poppy seeds. Pop your plait in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. Turn the temperature down to 200°C (180°C fan) and bake for a further 10-15 minutes or until the top of the bread is golden and the base sounds hollow when tapped. Cool the bread on a wire rack.

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