I bought a couple of frozen pheasants from a game supplier at my local farmers' market last month and have been having a hard time deciding how to cook them.
Because pheasant season is October-February, most of the recipes that came to mind were decidedly wintry, which just did not appeal at this glorious time of year when it's sunny out and the garden is full of the colourful produce of spring, not parsnips, cabbages and swede.
I took them out of the freezer with a plan to roast them and serve them with some sweet potatoes and spring greens, but as the day wore on and hours working in the garden had warmed me through completely, I knew that the only way these puppies were making it to our dinner table was via the barbecue.
I decided on a very simple Thai marinade and rather than cooking whole, I jointed the birds and gave them just a few minutes on each side, fully expecting to title this post "Pheasant Fail". I mean, whoever heard of barbecuing pheasant? Thai pheasant? No? I didn't think so.
What resulted was absolutely fantastic, juicy and bursting with flavour. At only £5 for both birds, this was one of the best experiments I have ever done and will definitely be repeated again soon.
You could absolutely do this with chicken, but I might use a little less sugar in the marinade, as it would be likely to burn because it would need a longer time on the grill. I don't see any reason why poussins, quail or other small game birds wouldn't work just as well. If you do use game bird, be sure to warn the other diners about the possibility of finding shot in their meat. Nothing spoils a summer barbie like an emergency trip to the dentist.
serves 4, takes 40 minutes
2 medium pheasants
4 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)
1 tbsp palm sugar
juice of 2 limes
large handful coriander (cilantro) chopped finely
1-2 large red chillies, finely chopped
Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a large freezer bag.
Remove the legs and separate into thighs and drumsticks just as you would with chicken, except the knee joint is a little fiddlier.
Remove the breasts and place the 12 pieces of meat into the freezer bag, seal and toss well to coat the meat well in the marinade.
Get the barbie going and when the coals are white, pieces on the grill for 2-3 minutes per side, depending on both the size of the meat and the heat from the coal. You want the outside to be slightly charred and the inside just cooked through. There is nothing drier or chewier than over-cooked pheasant, so take care not to overdo it.
I served ours with a simple salad of sweet corn, red pepper, coriander (cilantro), mint, lime, fish sauce, and a little garlic and I roasted the peeled chunks of sweet potato in the oven with just oil, salt and pepper for the about 40 minutes.
The combination of all these flavours and textures was just the perfect summer supper, with plenty of lip-tingling, finger-licking tang and spice. We ate outside with tall glasses of gin and tonic and extra lime wedges on the side.