A lot of our game birds are sent overseas, as nobody can be bothered plucking or butchering them. I think that's madness. We should be eating more of these birds in season, for the sake of our health and our tradition. Pheasant is delicious, and a brilliant alternative to turkey or chicken, just be careful not to overcook it. It has a reputation as being dry, but wrapped in bacon it will remain moist. Here I’ve created a lovely dish with chestnuts, fennel and walnuts. Remember, the legs will take a little longer than the breast, so cook separately if roasting a whole bird.
4 plump hen-pheasant breasts
4 long rashers of streaky bacon
1 head of fennel, peeled and cut into batons an inch or two long
A few baby onions, peeled
A handful of chestnuts, re-cooked vacuum-packed are fine
A handful of walnuts
A handful of thick-cut, dry-cured bacon lardons
A few sprigs of thyme
A knob of butter
50ml rapeseed oil
Good salt and black pepper
A few fennel fronds
Lay a piece of streaky bacon (north to south) on a clean surface and place a pheasant breast in the middle (east to west) and roll the ends of the rasher around until the pheasant is covered. Repeat for the other three breasts.
Heat a frying pan on the hob and add half the oil. Fry the wrapped breasts in the hot oil until golden all over. This will take a few minutes. Then place the whole pan in a moderately-hot oven for 12 -15 minutes, until just firm. Allow to rest.
Meanwhile, cook your garnish. Heat another frying pan and add the rest of the oil, get it hot then sauté the bacon lardons with the baby onions and fennel.
After a couple of minutes, add the thyme, chestnuts and walnuts, tossing all the time. Add the butter and season with salt and pepper. Finish in the oven for a further 10 minutes or until the fennel is soft and the onions and bacon are cooked. Remove from oven and sprinkle on the fennel fronds.
To serve, divide the lardon mixture between four plates. Flash the pheasant under the grill to warm them back up before slicing and arranging on top of the garnish. Simple.