Pheasant Guidwife is a traditional recipe that’s origins are a little mysterious. Some say it came from South Africa, however I believe it was more likely to be Scottish. Guidwife being an old Scots term for the female head of the household, and appears in poetry by Robert Burns “…The auld guidwife’s weel-hoordet nits are round an’ round divided…”.
This recipe is heavily based upon one published by the Field magazine. However, in mine I joint the bird to make the serving and eating more easy, and I also make a rich stock for more flavour. Pheasant is a very lean and healthy meat, however it can become very dry and a little tough when roasted, so this method of cooking as part of a casserole ensures the meat is tender and succulent.
In England, the pheasant shooting season starts on 1st October. So soon after, fresh specimens start to appear in butchers shops. If you live in Brighton and Hove, I can recommend a short journey out to Springs Smokery who stock all sorts of game and poultry (Grouse, pigeon, pheasant, and partridge) or alternatively a visit to the excellent butchers on Richardson Road, R C Seckers.
This dish is a wonderful autumnal option for when is cold, dark and wet outside. Pair with a medium bodied red Burgundy wine that should provide enough fruit and spice to match.
Skill level: Easy – Moderate, if you choose to butcher your own birds.
Equipment required: Cast iron/stoveproof casserole dish, with lid
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 2-3 hours
1 Pheasants (approximately 600g)
1 medium onion – cut into rings
150ml red wine
Sunflower oil for frying
4-6 tbsp fruit chutney (peach or mango)
For the stock
2 stalks celery
A few peppercorns
1 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
Step 1: Joint your pheasant, removing the legs and breasts. Sometimes there may be a few remaining short feathers attached to the skin, which can be easily removed using a pair of fish-boning tweezers.
Step 2: Place the carcass of the pheasant into a pan and cover with cold water. Add the carrot, celery, peppercorns, salt and bay leaf. Cover with a lid and bring to a gentle simmer, to produce your stock. Ideally cook for at least an hour, but preferably longer to reduce and concentrate flavour. When you are happy with your stock, pass through a sieve and put aside.
Step 3: In your casserole dish heat a little oil. While waiting, season the meat with salt. Brown the pheasant in the hot oil, starting with the skin-side down. Once browned all over, remove the meat from the hot casserole and reduce the temperature to a medium heat.
Step 4: Add the onions to the remaining hot oil in casserole, and cook gently until translucent. When the onions just start to brown, add the red wine and raise the temperature to a boil.
Step 5: Add to the casserole the fruit chutney and approximately 150-200ml of your previously prepared stock. Place the browned pheasant joints into the casserole on top of the onions and cover with a lid.
Step 6: Transfer the casserole to a preheated oven at 160 degrees centigrade. After 1 hour check the consistency of the sauce, adding additional stock if too thick, or if necessary thicken using a small amount of cornflour mixed with cold water. Return to the oven to cook for a further 20- 30 minutes, while you prepare your accompaniments.
Step 7: Serve with a spicy braised red cabbage, garlicky celeriac puree, and buttery green beans.
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