Pheasant, slow, with lentils

I went to my local butcher yesterday. This is noteworthy because I have been smiling at him through the shop window for years while continuing to buy my meat at the supermarket. My feeling of guilt is palpable, but bad habits can be changed for better ones, so this week I went in for a free range chicken.

Imagine my anxiety then, when I was told there were no free range chickens in stock. I thought, ‘I can’t admit to my local butcher that not only do I usually buy meat at the supermarket, but I would also settle for barn-reared chicken.’ So to save face, I ordered a pheasant instead. As the butcher said, ‘it’s that time of year,’ and they are £4.50 each.

Now I’ve never cooked pheasant before, but I’m in the right place, I thought, and I asked the butcher who said, ‘You can roast it, or casserole it… I’m trying to remember the last time I cooked a pheasant.’
Feeling embarrassed I said, ‘does it go with thyme?’
‘Oh any herbs would go. Google it.’
‘I’ll do that.’
‘Plenty of time for exotic cooking now,’ said the butcher, looking at my baby.

I spent my ample time last night making pheasant and green lentil casserole. We ate it for dinner this evening with raw beetroot and sautéed potatoes. Here is the recipe, but I didn’t Google it, I made it up. The seasoning could use tweaking, but it is tasty, and there is enough leftover for tomorrow as well, so I think that £4.50 was well spent.

Pheasant, slow, with lentils

1 whole pheasant, jointed
Oil and butter
1 large cup green lentils
3 cloves garlic
1 onion
2 sticks celery
4 rashers streaky bacon
Thyme, rosemary, bay leaves and parsley stalks in a bundle.
250ml white wine
Two-three cups water
Parsley, to serve
Salt and pepper

Heat some oil in a large casserole and brown the pheasant. When the meat has some colour, remove the meat and set aside while you add more butter to the pan and fry off the bacon, then onion, celery and garlic until the bacon fat is rendered out and the vegetables are softened.

Replace the meat and add the wine, water and herbs then clamp on the lid and cook on a low simmer for about 40 minutes.

While the pheasant is cooking, rinse the lentils, place in a saucepan of cold unsalted water and bring to the boil. Pre-cook the lentils for 20 minutes from boiling then drain and rinse again.

Add the lentils to the casserole and cook for another hour.

Leave overnight for flavours to develop. When ready to serve, gently pull the meat from the bones and replace in with the lentils. Be careful to remove the fine bones, of which the are many.

Serve with sautéed potato and raw grated beetroot dressed with a little oil and lemon.

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