As an omnivore I happen to believe that game is one of the best choices that I can make when it comes to eating meat. It's reared in the environment organically and even has a bit of a chance of popping its clogs at the end of a long happy life without the need for human intervention to dispatch it into the afterlife. So when Jayne, one of our support workers, asked if I'd like some pheasant the other day I jumped at the chance. Her husband is the well loved postie in a rural area and he'd been given a shedload by one of his 'customers'.
Now originally I thought it would arrive complete with feathers, beak and all. No bad thing I thought. It would be good for me and Louis to have a sense of where our food came from and pluck the birds. But in the end I was presented with three prepared breasts in a ziplock bag. I decided to slow cook it. 'A few chestnuts are nice with it.' suggested Jayne.
And so yesterday Lou and I went on a chestnut hunt. None in Asda or Morrison's. Eventually we found some in a very beautiful greengrocers in Totnes at a very beautiful price. £5.40 for less than a pound in weight. Bollocks to that! A 50p can of cannellini beans made a good substitute. When we arrived home here's the gist of how quick it was to put together a rather wonderful hearty meal.
In the time it took for us to boil a kettle for a cup of tea and the chicken stock for the casserole I chopped up the pheasant, six rashers of streaky bacon, an onion, a couple of carrots and about four potatoes and popped it all in the pot. I added the beans and a can of chopped tomatoes, three cloves of crushed garlic and a good sprinkling of sage. I topped it up with stock, seasoned it well and popped the cooker on high for an afternoon of cooking. Done!
About a couple of hours before teatime I made dumplings out of 200g self raising flour, 100g of suet and a good shaking of salt. I used just enough water to bind the ingredients together by hand and popped dinky little balls of the mixture on top of the bubbling mixture. The job took all of an extra three minutes.
Twenty minutes before the end of cooking time (about six hours) I removed the stock and boiled it in a saucepan to reduce it. I added a few peas to the casserole for a contrast in taste but mostly because pretty much any savoury dish looks prettier for a bit of greenery.
No fancy cosmetically enhanced food photos. Just a picture of a boy enjoying his tucker. I hope this proves that my quickly prepared winter warmer was entirely successful!