Tag Archives: Game meat

Risotto… or: using up leftover Pheasant in new and exciting ways

I may have mentioned it before but I am an avid bargain hunter / cheapskate. So my weekly shop tends to be from Aldi both because it’s convenient, and quite cheap, and a lot of their food isn’t as bad as some people think it is. (especially the cold meats, and unless I’m growing them myself, vegetables tend to be just vegetables to me).

So when I saw they were selling some Italian foods, I went ahead and purchased some Arborio Rice. Normally our household survives exclusively on Indian Basmati Rice so this made an interesting change and allowed me to cook proper(?) Risotto.

To make Risotto, one needs at least the following basic ingredients in addition to rice: Butter, Onion, Stock, some meat or veg for interest, salt & pepper, perhaps a splash of wine and some Parmesan cheese. The method is fairly simple, but time consuming and labour intensive.

Rather than use a crappy stock cube in boiling water, I remembered that I still had some pheasant stock in the freezer so that’s what I used. Plus some left over pieces of pheasant that I had braised in red wine.

Pheasant Risotto

Pheasant Risotto

Ingredients:

250g Arborio rice

Knob of butter (be as generous as you like)

1 large onion – finely chopped

1 clove of garlic – finely chopped

1 cup Wine (any type you like, I happened to have Rose)

Some sprigs of Thyme and Rosemary

Salt, Pepper, Red chilli flakes, plus any other seasoning you like.

Meat Stock (Pheasant in my case)

Shredded meat from said stock, or any vegetables you like; beans, peas, carrots, spinach, etc.

Method:

Firstly make sure to heat the stock while you start off the risotto.

In a sufficiently large pan or wok, heat some olive oil with butter and start sauteeing the garlic and onion with the herbs and chilli flakes until cooked.

Then add the rice and stir fry it for a while, until you notice it starting to stick. Also add any vegetables at this point.

Add your wine and stir the rice/onion/veg mixture until the wine has been absorbed / evaporated. The idea is to add liquid and cook it down repeatedly, letting the risotto pretty much dry up in between to the point of sticking a little bit.

Add some stock, cook it down again. Depending on how your stock is seasoned, add some salt and pepper and any other seasoning you like.

According to the instructions on the rice packet, it should have cooked in about 15-20 minutes. I found this to be quite inaccurate, mine took at least double that and in the end it was still a little “al dente” and certainly not overcooked at all.

So keep adding stock and stirring constantly (I did say it was labour intensive!), adding the shredded meat from the stock. Check what instructions your rice came with and start tasting at roughly 15-20 minutes cooking time to see if it’s done yet. You’re looking for the rice grains to be separate and hold their shape, but not crunchy. Just like pasta, you want the rice to still have some “bite” and be firm inside, however not too hard to eat! After stirring and adding more and more liquid you will notice that the Risotto has developed a silky, creamy textured liquid around the rice grains. This is the starch coming out of the rice and exactly as it’s supposed to happen!

If you feel it’s cooked to your liking, turn off the heat, add some more butter, grated parmesan cheese, any fresh leafy herbs you like and additional salt & pepper if needed.

I served the Risotto with some additional pieces of pheasant and roasted cherry tomatoes. Also, I added saffron quite in the beginning for some extra fragrance and colour, though I may have gotten a little colour, I couldn’t distinguish it in the finished product so I left it out of the recipe.


How to skin a Pheasant

Admittedly I’ve been very lazy after preparing the two Pheasants I was given in December. In fact we did go out in the garden, set up a tripod and camera and made videos of what was happening. Unfortunately though I have no experience whatsoever with video editing and so I’ve been putting off doing anything with those videos.

In the meanwhile we were given two more pheasants so this morning I set about cleaning them up for storage in the fridge. I took some photos along the way, but since it was just me on the kitchen floor with my camera phone, I had to stop taking photos once my hands got a bit too sticky. Hopefully you’ll still get the idea though!

Requirements:

  • Large enough work area – preferably one where it’s ok if you get feathers everywhere
  • Poultry shears are extremely useful
  • Sharp paring knife

It was very cold outside so I decided to stay indoors and use a cardboard box on my kitchen floor. Some feathers did find their way to other areas in the kitchen but it wasn’t too bad.

 

  1. Start by removing all extremities which you’re not going to eat or which have very little meat – Head, wings, feet, tail
  2. Start peeling the skin off from the neck – I’ve found it easiest to start at the back and then doing the wing stumps and legs one by one. Try keeping the skin in relatively large pieces so feathers don’t fly everywhere.
  3. Once the back and legs are clean, do the breast and front part of the neck. This is where the bird has a sack type of thing full of grains it has recently eaten. If you’re careful you can make it come off intact with the skin.
  4. Get any feathers and skin off that you’ve missed, perhaps around the tail area or legs. There will also be feathers sticking to the flesh of the pheasant, get as many of them off as you can.
  5. Gutting: Since after skinning I intend to use the pheasant in bits rather than as a whole bird, the easiest method I’ve found for gutting is to separate the neck and spine carefully from the ribs. This will expose the lungs.
  6. Carefully separate them from the ribcage all around, and open up the bird by separating the spine and legs from the breast. Take care not to perforate any organs while doing this and keep separating any connections between the innards and the ribcage / spine.
  7. If you were able to get the breast separate, you’ll have just the legs and spine with the guts still attached. Carefully cut around the anus and you should be left with all the guts intact and separate from all the meat.
  8. Depending on where the bird was shot from, ideally it shouldn’t smell bad and the intestines should not have ruptured. If however they have, use common sense to discard any contaminated meat. I would say that if there is any torn flesh that looks like it has been in contact with intestinal fluids for a while this should be discarded.
  9. Wash the meat thoroughly, pluck any down feathers out of shot holes and check for bad smells in case you did find that it had been shot in the guts. My colleague (who is an experienced hunter) tells me that washing with vinegar water helps get rid of smells.
  10. Anything that still smells quite bad is best discarded because even after cooking, it will taste quite bad as well.
  11. Check for shot pellets and discard. You do NOT want to accidentally bite into one after cooking!

Two dead birds – conclusion

About 5 days after receiving the two Pheasants I previously blogged about, I actually did end up preparing them, don’t let the lack of posts fool you! Considering it was the first time I ever prepared an intact animal, it was a bit of a learning curve, but not as off-putting as I thought it might be.

Combine pheasant, onions, garlic, mustard, red wine...

I have made a number of observations and learned quite a bit, so I thought I’d share my newly acquired wisdom with you!

  1. Pheasant tastes nice, though not like any other bird I’ve eaten. Texture wise the meat reminded me more of rabbit. If you’re totally new to game meat, it might take a few bites to get used to the flavour
  2. Hanging dead animals (provided they do not have gut wounds) for a few days in a cool and dry place improves their flavour. – I’ll admit I have nothing to compare them to, but after cooking they were quite tender, and luckily they did not smell nasty before cooking – it was very cold, and effectively they matured for 6-7 days in temperatures <5 degrees celsius.
  3. Pheasants cannot be plucked after maturing. The skin is too soft and just pulls off with the feathers.
  4. Pheasants cannot be “field dressed” after maturing. They just break apart. In hindsight, the word “field” should have tipped me off to this fact.
  5. My brand new £8.99 roaster with lid from Aldi turned out very useful indeed. As the pheasants were skinned rather than plucked, they needed to be braised in order to avoid drying the meat out. If you wanted to roast a skinned bird, you’d need to cover it in bacon or similar to keep the meat moist but I was worried the bacon flavour would overpower the meat itself.
  6. Pheasants are a lean meat, very much unlike duck which does not need a sauce or gravy with it as such because of all the tasty juicy fat in it. So provide for wetness to go with the meat and any side dish you intend to serve.

Two hours later…