More Christmas preparations. I made this wreath! It is wonky, one side bushier than the other, and it’s showing up all the dodgy paintwork on our door, but who cares?!
Radio 4 devoted an hour yesterday to discussing the high cost of living and how people are coping. Lots of talk of wearing several jumpers at once / hot water bottles / cutting back on consumer goods. So far, so wise. I work from home and try not to have the heating on too much, partly because it is horrendously expensive, but mostly because it feels so wasteful of energy. It gets c.o.l.d. though. My trusty Age UK Hypothermia Thermometer tells the story (I love this):
A few people on the radio said that they had started buying cheaper meat cuts, cooking up vats of stew/curry/whatever, and freezing for a later date. This I know well, there being enough food in my parent’s chest freezer to last for about a year. I have totally inherited the hoarding instinct.
So yesterday I cooked up a pheasant braise, using one bird (about £3), some home-made stock, a few veggies and leftover wine. Feeds four comfortably.
The only vaguely complicated thing here is chopping up the pheasant. Meat shears would be useful, but I used a knife. Game birds are not butchered so cleanly as, say, chicken and they usually need a good wash. This one still had a few maize kernels lurking inside…doesn’t bother me but perhaps isn’t for the squeamish.
So chop up the pheasant and brown the segments in a pan. Transfer to a waiting casserole pot, then do the same with some bacon – the bacon is there to provide a bit of much-needed fat. Then soften the onions followed by the rest of the veg.
Next the tomato puree goes in along with the flour, cook through for a minute or two, before adding wine and stock and bringing to a simmer. I think a proper home-made stock really helps here – I had some game stock in the freezer, but chicken would be fine. Once it’s bubbling, transfer the lot to the pheasant and then simmer gently for about 90 minutes. I then thickened the braise with a beurre manie, which is just butter and flour mixed together.
I served it up with red cabbage and celeriac mash. This is a proper comforting winter warmer, full of nutrition and really not at all hard. There is loads leftover, which will happily freeze for another day. And I had a helper with the dishes!
Olive oil, for frying
Four rashers streaky smoked bacon, or lardons
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, thickly sliced
2 sticks of celery, thickly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, bashed and the skins removed
A handful of mushrooms, I used chestnut
1 dessertspoon flour
half dessertspoon tomato puree
Sprig of rosemary or thyme or a few bay leaves
About 250ml red wine
About 600ml stock, ideally home-made – game or chicken is best
Buerre Manie – equal parts butter and flour mashed together, to thicken. I used about 1 dessertspoon of flour.
Chop the pheasant into six pieces – four breast pieces and two legs. Give it all a good clean under the tap and pat dry using kitchen towel. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and brown off the pheasant, transferring to a casserole dish when done. Add bacon to the frying pan and brown, then add to the pheasant. Now soften the onions, followed by the vegetables. Season it all well, remembering that the bacon may bring its own salt to the dish. Add in flour and tomato puree and cook for a minute or too, then add stock and red wine. Bring to a simmer and add to the pheasant along with the herbs. Put a lid on the lot and simmer for 90mins or so, until the pheasant feels tender. At the end of cooking, the sauce may need reducing and/or thickening – if so, simmer for ten minutes or so with the lid off, and add buerre manie a teaspoon at a time, stirring it in well. Cook through for a few more minutes before serving.