This is a wonderfully autumnal and rather fun way to cook pheasant. Natural, aromatic hay both helps hold in the moisture of the lean meat and creates a delicious sauce with a true flavour of the farm’s colourful meadows. This recipe serves 4.
1 1.5kg whole pheasant
4 garlic cloves
1 star anise
300mL dry cider
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 big handfuls of organic hay
100g unsalted butter
40mL rapeseed oil
300mL chicken stock
1 sheet of muslin cloth (large enough to completely wrap the bird in)
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6.
Place the pheasant on top of the muslin. Rub a little rapeseed all over the bird and season well inside and out with salt and pepper. Lightly crush the garlic cloves and place inside the carcass, along with the star anise. Wrap the pheasant tightly in the cloth.
To bake, you will need a heavy based ovenproof pot with a lid. With the hay, create a nest in the pot in which to roast the bird. Nestle in the wrapped pheasant and make sure to cover the top with plenty more hay. Pour the cider around the sides and place the lid on the pan. Bake in the oven for around 45 minutes; this will vary depending on the weight of the meat. Check by probing a knife through the cloth and into the thigh of the bird. The juices should run clear. Once cooked, remove the post from the over and allow the bird to rest with the lid on, out of the oven in the juices for 30 minutes.
Once rested, remove the pheasant from the cloth. You now want to colour the skin. Add a touch of oil and the butter to a frying pan large enough to accommodate the whole pheasant and allow to melt until the butter begins to foam. Place the pheasant breast side down in the pan and gently colour all over by twisting and turning the bird to ensure even browning.
Meanwhile, strain the juices from the pot through a fine sieve into a saucepan and add the chicken stock. Place on heat and reduce until you have made a lovely, rich and delicious sauce.
Carve the pheasant and serve with the sauce.
This works well with many garnishes, roasted pumpkin and chestnuts for an autumn supper or a little damson and beetroot slaw at lunch.