The first pheasants have flown in and are hanging in the restaurant, ready to be plucked. We sometimes overlook the value of game birds in Ireland, seeing them, somewhat like lobsters, as the preserve of a higher class of individuals. But this is nonsense. And the more we engage with the beautiful 10,000-year tradition of eating game birds in Ireland, the more we can make them our own and develop them as a vital part of our contemporary food culture.
Simply put, pheasants are like chickens. That is, anything you can do with one, you can do with the other. Roasted with Gubbeen chorizo stuffing? Yes. Glazed with oysters and baked? Yes.
Perhaps my favourite combinations for this bird are fruit and nuts. Pears, walnuts, hazelnuts, figs: all of these complement the lean pheasant meat and its faint gamey nature. Pickling pears or apples lends a gentle acidity to the meat that almost acts like a good chutney. Green tomatoes are available now and make a great late autumn condiment that will keep until Christmas and will work well with your ham and turkey. It is so important to capture some aspect of autumn and carry it through until the winter. A mouthful of pickled pear can provide much-needed nutritional solace in the depths of a dark winter.
How to make pheasant with pickled pears
To pickle your pear, place 300ml of white wine vinegar, 200ml of water and 100g of sugar in a pot with some herbs and spices of your choice. Bring to the boil and then pour this over two or three unpeeled pears. Leave for a few days before removing the fruit from the pickle. Quarter and core the pears and then sear them on a griddle pan until nicely charred.
Take two oven-ready pheasants and brush with melted butter and season with salt, pepper and chopped herbs. Roast in an oven heated to 200 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes, or until a core temperature of 65 degrees Celsius is reached. Baste with more butter during the cooking process. Serve with the pears and a nice green salad dressed with the butter from the pheasant and the pear pickling liquid.