Laura Hadland Blog – Pheasant and Leek Winter Pie

November 22, 2016

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– by Laura Hadland

I love to walk around Leicester Market and get inspiration for a new recipe. The sounds, the smells and the bright colours of the seasonal produce are a feast for the senses and certainly help to get the creative juices flowing.

At this time of year, with shorter days and long nights, all I want is to create warming comfort food for my family and I. With the colder weather comes the desire for slow cooked recipes, hearty soups and warming one-pot dishes that are great soul food. The Market caters for this in spades with a huge range of fresh vegetables and game meat. I picked up a selection of ingredients and then put together this recipe on the fly.

leeksIt’s a seasonal twist on that British classic, the shepherd’s pie. The pheasant gives a sweet, gamey flavour which has much more power than chicken. This pairs deliciously with the sweet potato topping and the whole thing is spiked through with a light smokey spiciness that comes from the smoked garlic and paprika, adding an interesting twist to an old family favourite. Individual pies could be made in ramekins and prepared in advance for a dinner party to give a hearty, yet elegant main course.

Pheasant is a much underused meat. Great roasted, you really need one bird per portion. However, this recipe stretches the rich, sweet meat out much further and really takes an all-in-one approach to getting the best flavour.

You definitely won’t find this recipe dry!

Ingredients
(Serves 4)

For the pheasant filling
1 large pheasant
One red onion, quartered
2 sticks of celery, roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
2 large cloves of smoked garlic, crushed lightly with the heel of the knife, to make removing the skins easier
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika (use hot if you want more of a kick)
1 leek
A tsp of butter mixed to a paste with a tsp of flour to thicken
A splash of milk
Salt and pepper to taste

For the topping
3 large sweet potatoes
2 medium potatoes
A knob of butter
A splash of milk or cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Method
•    Put the oven on to preheat at 240’C.

•    Place your pheasant in a large pan or stockpot. Add the red onion, celery, carrot and smoked garlic. Sprinkle in the smoked paprika and add cold water until the bird is half covered. Don’t worry that the veg is only roughly chopped, you’ll blend it later.

•    Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Simmer for 45 minutes.

•    Put the sweet potatoes and potatoes in the oven to bake. Pierce a hole to prevent unwanted explosions!

•    When the potatoes are baked, turn the oven down to 200’C and take the potatoes out to cool.

•    Meanwhile, when the 45 minutes are up, remove the pheasant from the pan and set to one side. If there is too much fat on the surface of the stock, skim some off with a spoon and discard.

•    Boil the stock rapidly for about 10 minutes or until reduced by about half. Blend using a stick blender until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

•    Strip the meat from the carcass and add to the sauce.

•    Chop the leek and add to the sauce and lightly simmer with the lid on until the leeks have softened.

•    While the filling is simmering away, remove the potato flesh from the skins, add butter and milk or cream to taste and mash. Season.

•    Add a splash of milk to the filling, then a paste of butter and flour to thicken it and allow to cook for a further couple of minutes to get rid of the flour taste.

•    Check your seasoning and pour the filling into a large ovenproof dish, or distribute evenly amongst ramekins if you are making individual portions. Layer the potato mixture on top and place in the oven for a further 25 minutes or until golden brown. You can dot the surface with butter to get a more crisp topping.

•    Serve with seasonal vegetables and a glass of King Richard white wine from Rothley Wine Estate (www.rothleywine.com) to complement the velvety sweetness of the pie.

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