I recently received a delivery of game birds – hung, plucked, gutted – so ready for cooking. After chatting to friends about their favourite ways to eat pheasant, I decided to make an apple and cider braise.
Braising the pheasant in cider helped keep the meat moist – pheasant is a fairly lean bird and prone to dry out easily – and the apples broke down and contributed to a tasty sauce for the mash.
Cider-Braised Pheasant with Shallots, Apples & Thyme
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 small pheasant (or 1 large), oven ready*
- 75 g pancetta or bacon , cubed
- 8-10 small shallots (or 4-5 large one halved), peeled
- 300 g cooking apples , peeled, cored and sliced~
- 500 ml dry cider
- small sprig fresh thyme (or generous 1/2 tsp dried)
- buttery mashed potato to serve
* My pheasant was about 900 grams, so enough to serve 2. If your birds are smaller, use 1 per person.
~ We used a lot of apple as we had a 300 gram bag of prepped apple in the freezer. Use less if you prefer.
Choose an stove and oven-proof casserole dish large enough for your pheasant(s), the shallots and apples and a good amount of liquid.
On the stove top, heat vegetable oil in your casserole dish and brown the pheasant(s) on all sides. A pair of rubber-tipped tongs is useful for this. Once browned, remove the pheasant(s) from the pot and set aside.
Preheat oven to 180 °C (fan).
Add the pancetta or bacon to the pot and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the shallots and cook on a high heat until they take on a little colour. Stir regularly so the shallots colour rather than catch.
Push the shallots and bacon to the edges to make space, then add the pheasant(s) back to the pot, breast side down. Spread the cooking apples around (and between, if cooking two birds) and throw in the thyme. Pour cider to at least half way up the bird(s). If you’re using a smaller pot you may not need the full 500 ml.
Cook on the stove for a further minute or two, until the liquid just starts to simmer, then put a lid onto the casserole dish and transfer to the oven.
Bake for 1 hour.
Remove from the oven and carefully lift pheasant(s) onto a warm plate to rest. Return the casserole dish to the stove and cook for a minute or two to reduce the sauce.
As we were sharing one pheasant between two, I used our kitchen scissors to cut the bird in half. Serve with mash and sauce.
As you can see, this isn’t the most elegant looking plate, but it was certainly a tasty and warming meal. Perfect for this cold winter weather.
More pheasant recipes to whet the appetite:
- River cottage pot-roast pheasant with chorizo, butter beans and parsley
- Jason Atherton’s pheasant breast with pearl barley, glazed carrots and spiced dates
- Delia Smith’s pot-roasted Pheasant with Port and Chestnuts
- James Martin’s pheasant Kiev
- Bruno Loubet’s roast pheasant (with cep powder)
- Stevie Parle’s pheasant roasted in spices and pomegranate molasses and stuffed with pilaf recipe
- Cooksister Jeanne’s pot roast pheasant with pancetta, apples and bread gravy
- FussFree Helen’s roast pheasant with bacon, prunes, apples and beans