Roasted Pheasant Breasts with Pickled Mushrooms in Red Wine Vinaigrette
Portion/Yield:Serves 4 as a main course
Pheasant is one of my seasonal favourites as it is lean, healthy and plentiful. The individual ingredients in this dish all have quite bold flavours, yet they work in harmony to create something surprisingly delicious. The pickled mushrooms add acidity to the dish and balance out the sweetness of the griddled leeks and the richness of the roasted pheasant breasts beautifully. This is the kind of dish I cook for people who are ‘new’ to game, it’s almost an introduction to game. I choose fresh pheasants, ones that is not hung too long, the flavours are still mellow and mild. For ‘hardcore’ game fans ask your butcher for well-hung pheasants with a rich game flavour.
Ingredients & Method
For the pickled mushrooms in red wine vinaigrette
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 100g mixed fresh wild mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed
- 1 teaspoon caster sugar
- 25ml walnut oil or hazelnut oil
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (choose Cabernet red wine vinegar, if possible)
- 1 bay leaf sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the roasted pheasant breasts
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 4 boneless (skin on) pheasant breasts (90–120g each)
- finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
For the griddled leeks and the mushroom purée
- 2 thin leeks, trimmed and washed (140–200g trimmed weight)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 100g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
- 50ml dry sherry
- 50ml double cream
- a sprig of fresh thyme, leaves only
- 150g kale, stalks removed, to serve
First, make the pickled mushrooms. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a small saucepan, add the mushrooms, garlic and coriander seeds, then cover and sweat over a medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms have wilted, but make sure they don’t take on any colour. Remove the pan from the heat and add the remaining pickled mushrooms ingredients, including the remaining olive oil, mix well and then transfer to a covered container. Set aside at room temperature to allow the flavours to develop, while you prepare the rest of the dish.
For the roasted pheasant breasts, preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan and once it is foaming, place the pheasant breasts, skin-side down, in the pan and fry over a high heat for 2 minutes. Flip the breasts over and fry for a further 2 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the pheasant breasts to a roasting tin and roast in the oven for about 8 minutes or until the skin is crispy. Remove from the oven, then sprinkle the lemon zest and juice over the pheasant. Leave the pheasant breasts to rest for 5 minutes, then slice each one just before serving.
Meanwhile, prepare the griddled leeks. Cut the leeks to the length of your serving plates, making the cut at the leaf (top) end rather than at the base. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a rapid boil over a high heat. Add the whole leeks and cook for 4–5 minutes or until tender, then drain and cut the leeks in half lengthways. Preheat a ridged griddle pan over a high heat until very hot. Season the leeks with salt and pepper and drizzle with the olive oil. Griddle the seasoned leeks for about 1 minute on each side or until grill marks appear, turning once. Remove from the heat and keep warm until you are ready to serve.
In the meantime, make the mushroom purée. Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan and once it starts to foam, add the chestnut mushrooms and salt and pepper and sauté over a high heat for about 6 minutes or until golden brown. Add the sherry to the pan and let the liquid bubble, stirring and scraping the base of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze it, then boil rapidly over a high heat for about 2 minutes or until the liquid becomes syrupy but has not completely evaporated. Stir in the cream and thyme leaves, then bring the mixture to a gentle simmer for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat, carefully transfer the mixture to a blender and blend to form a smooth purée, then return the purée to the pan and reheat gently.
When you are ready to serve, blanch the kale in a pan of boiling salted water for about 1 minute or until tender, then drain. Drain the pickled mushrooms, reserving the red wine vinaigrette.
To serve, spoon the warm mushroom purée on to serving plates. Place a leek half and a portion of kale on to each plate, then place a sliced pheasant breast on top of each leek half. Scatter over the drained pickled mushrooms and serve immediately with a good drizzle of the red wine vinaigrette.