Pheasant with Pomegranates and Chestnuts

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Autumn dinner for two

Pheasant with Pomegranates & Chestnuts
Chicory & watercress salad
Pears

My local Farmers Market in Bloomsbury has an excellent game stall, South Downs Venison and Game, so I often get pheasant or venison for a weekend dinner. Going through a pile of recipes I had cut out of magazines, I found this recipe for pheasant or guinea fowl with chestnuts, which sounded so autumnal and delicious that I had to try it with the pheasant I bought last Thursday. There was no date or magazine name on the cutting, but I am guessing that it might be a Brian Glover recipe from House and Garden. I halved the quantities to serve 2, but this would be a splendid recipe for an autumn or winter dinner party, in which case just double it – I reckon a brace of pheasant serve 5, but 2 guinea fowl should feed 6.

1 pheasant
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
175g shallots, peeled
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
salt and pepper
20g chilled butter
1.5 tbsps pomegranate molasses
2 fresh bay leaves
175g peeled chestnuts
½ tsp tart fruit jelly (I used quince)
seeds from 1/2 pomegranate
a little chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 180 C/Gas Mark 4. Stuff the pheasant with some of the sprigs of thyme, a shallot and 1 clove of garlic and season well inside and out.

Heat half the butter in a casserole and, when bubbling, brown the bird on all sides. Remove the bird, lower the heat and brown the remaining shallots all over. Put the shallots on a plate and return the bird to the pan.

Dilute the pomegranate molasses with 150ml of boiling water (you can substitute 150ml of pomegranate juice for this if you can’t get the molasses). Add to the casserole with the bay leaves and a sprig or two of thyme. Season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Make sure the bird is breast-side down in the casserole. Cover and cook in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn the bird breast side up, and tuck in the shallots and chestnuts. Cover and cook in the oven for a further 20-25 minutes.

Turn the oven up to 190 C/Gas Mark 5. Take the lid off the casserole, baste the bird with the juices, and cook uncovered for another 15-25 minutes (depending on the size of your bird) until the juices are running clear, not pink, when you pierce the leg. Remove the bird, shallots and chestnuts to a serving plate and cover with a tent of foil to keep warm.

Bring the stock to a boil in a pan over high heat (or return the casserole to the hob, as I did), whisking in the fruit jelly and seasoning. Let it bubble and reduce a little then, off the heat, whisk in the remaining butter cut into little pieces, bit by bit. Stir in the pomegranate seeds. Pour over the bird, shallots and chestnuts and scatter with a little chopped parsley (as you can see, I forgot the parsley).

I carved the pheasant into portions before pouring over the sauce, which looks a bit less spectacular, but makes for easier serving and less collateral damage to the tablecloth.

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