I recently was bestowed with these two pleasant pheasants via our secretary at work. This is one of the clear advantages of a career in the countryside – the fruit of the land. A pair is traditionally known as a brace, one male and one female. They need to be hung for 1-2 weeks to allow the meat to tenderise; i am told they are quite inedible prior to this.
My plan was to bravely pluck, eviscerate and prepare the birds myself, despite having no experience to bring to the task, other than a youtube video (what more does one need in this day and age?) However i quickly realised the error of my ways when faced with the aromas, time-scale and general gory-ness of the process, so i opted for the simpler route of skinning the breast and legs, and doing a casserole. Here i am preparing for action…
The task proved to be only mildly nauseating, but my symptoms were suitably eased by the smug feeling that comes with being this intimate with your food, from source to plate, minus food miles and corporate mark-up prices. I was shocked to hear that the fella that shoots these birds receives a mere 75p per bird from the butcher.
I elected to spare you the photographic details of the intervening process, but here are the fruits of my labour. the quantities were a little underwhelming, but more than enough for a nice pheasant stew last sunday. The recipe came from Darina Allen’s wonderful book Forgotten Skills of Cooking. The gist was – fry up chopped onions and carrots til soft. Seal the pheasant in a hot frying pan, then de-glaze the pan with some white wine and chicken stock and add all to a casserole dish. Add in some nice herbs (bay, thyme etc), and cook slowly, covered, in the oven at around 160 – maybe 2 hours. I was relieved to find it wasn’t too tough in the eating, and some happy table mates made all the effort worthwhile!
And to finish, here’s a merry little folk song, apparently ‘not to be sung by the faint-hearted…’
I’m not a pheasant plucker, I’m a pheasant plucker’s son
I’m only plucking pheasants ’till the pheasant plucker comes.
Me husband is a keeper, he’s a very busy man
I try to understand him and I help him all I can,
But sometimes in an evening I feel a trifle dim
All alone, I’m plucking pheasants, when I’d rather pluck with him.
I’m not a pheasant plucker, I’m a pheasant plucker’s mate
I’m only plucking pheasants ‘cos the pheasant plucker’s late !
I’m not good at plucking pheasants, at pheasant plucking I get stuck
Though some pheasants find it pleasant I’d rather pluck a duck.
Oh plucking geese is gorgeous, I can pluck a goose with ease
But pheasant plucking’s torture because they haven’t any grease.
I’m not a pheasant plucker, he has gone out on the tiles
He only plucked one pheasant and I’m sitting here with piles !
You have to pluck them fresh, if it’s fresh they’re not unpleasant,
I knew a man in Dunstable who could pluck a frozen pheasant.
They say the village constable had pheasant plucking sessions
With the vicar on a Sunday ‘tween the first and second lessons.
I’m not a pheasant plucker, I’m a pheasant plucker’s mum
I’m only plucking pheasants ’till the pheasant plucker’s come.
My good friend Godfrey is most adept, he’s really got the knack
He likes to have a pheasant plucked before he hits the sack.
I like to give a helping hand, I gather up the feathers,
It’s really all our pheasant plucking keeps us pair together.
I’m not a pheasant plucker, I’m a pheasant plucker’s friend
I’m only plucking pheasants as a means unto an end !
My husband’s in the forest always banging with his gun
If he could hear me half the time I’m sure that he would run,
For there’s fluff in all my crannies, there’s feathers up my nose
And I’m itching in the kitchen from my head down to my toes.
I’m not a pheasant plucker, I’m a pheasant plucker’s wife
And when we pluck together it’s a pheasant plucking life !