In January, local game is in plentiful supply. Pheasants, pigeons & partridges have had a joyous time, feeding off the rich Autumn harvest for three long months. The fruit of the fields & hedgerows has developed in them a fine deep flavour, plus contributed an insulating layer of fat. This lends them succulence & tenderness in the pot, which game-birds bagged earlier in the season tend to lack. This is truly ‘free range food’ at its best, and nature’s wildness can be tasted in every mouthful!
When all is cold and grey outside; the kitchen becomes a place of sanctuary. Its warm oven & bubbling pans make it the perfect haven to ward off the season’s bitter chill. In January, we need satisfying comfort food like this dish, to nurture us through the dark months and break the monotony of food which often seems to lose its vibrancy.
Pheasant can have a tendency to be on the dry side; as such it requires careful cooking. This doesn’t mean that it’s difficult or fiddly to cook; simply that it needs plenty of liquid and sumptuous lashings of butter to bring out its best! Here I’ve paired it with buttered broccoli & celeriac ‘forestière’. Forestière is a traditional French dish, taking its name from the woodlands where mushrooms are grown & foraged. The recipe traditionally also uses bacon, onions, herbs and garlic. This makes it deeply rich in flavour, with a ‘taste of the wild’ which compliments our pheasant perfectly! This dish can also be adapted to the more classical usage of chicken – but I feel we can go one better than that!
The use of celeriac makes this recipe wonderfully low in carbohydrate. With a net-carb value of circa 5.5g per 100; it’s a vegetable which can be enjoyed by ketogenic-dieters, diabetics, paleo-fans or simply anyone just wishing to avoid the stodge of potatoes! They’ll be no impact to your blood-sugar and none of the ‘bloat’ which classically accompanies a high-carb meal. The flavour of celeriac is also absolutely delicious, with a sweet, nutty taste that enriches stocks, sauces and even salads when eaten raw. The low-carb kitchen can’t get enough of it, so put it on your weekly shopping list!
Start by liberally seasoning your pheasant. Place a heavy bottomed pan on the hob and melt in a knob of butter and a little oil. Once this is piping hot, seal the pheasant, turning after a minute or two on each side until all is golden.
Now add diced bacon lardons to the pan and a finely sliced onion. Once the onion has softened and turned translucent, crush in a clove or two of garlic and chopped mushrooms. I used chestnut mushrooms and a small handful of dried porcinis. If you’re lucky enough to have morels, then I envy you, as these makethe perfect dish! Sauté all for a further couple of minutes to build up the heat. Now deglaze the pan with a generous glug of port (I advise placing your nose into the whooshing cloud of steam. You’ll be rewarded with a richly alcoholic ‘sigh’ – the cook’s true perk, and one which should never be passed up).
Once the port has reduced by half in volume, add diced celeriac (chopped to cubes of circa 1cm) and pour on chicken stock (or water and two stock cubes) to a depth that is ‘waist-high’ to the pan’s contents. Sprinkle in fresh or dried herbs and give the pan a good stir. I opted for thyme and sage because of their warmth of flavour. I always feel however that herbs are a matter of personal preferance – use what you like and you can’t go wrong! Then into a hot oven it goes for circa one hour, making sure to turn the pheasant over half-way through to brown the topside.
Once cooked remove from the oven and check for seasoning. Cover the pan with tinfoil and leave the pheasant to ‘rest’ for ten minutes, so that the meat can ‘relax’. Meanwhile bring a centimetre of water to the boil in a pan and steam your chopped broccoli for a couple of minutes until tender, but still retaining its bite. Drain this and top with a generous spoonful of butter. Placing a lid on the pan and giving it a good shake will ensure that the vegetables are all finely coated.
Then simply transfer your pheasant to a pre-heated serving dish and ladle the sauce all around. Pile your broccoli to one side and dig in! January comfort-food doesn’t get any better or more delicious than this! Hearty, satisfying warmth – truly food for the soul!
Browse this and other recipes by picture on my pinterest page: country walks in ketosis pinterest.
Thanks for reading and bon ap!