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While a chicken can be rubbed with oil or butter and roasted for an hour and a half pretty effortlessly, pheasant is a bit more of a diva.
The meat is famously dry. Do you roast it, boil it, or chuck it in the slow cooker? And it looks so small - is there any point?
Well I'm here to tell you that cooking pheasant is easy. And it doesn't have to be dry and chewy.
It has a beautiful gamey, quite complex flavour that pairs well with anything sweet or tangy. There are recipes online for pheasant with blueberries or cherries - and it's usually wrapped in bacon to help stop the dryness, because pheasant is very lean. You can indeed roast it (I'd probably go for the bacon-wrapping for this), boil it in water in a pot on the stove - or you can cook it in your slow cooker.
Slow cooking pheasant, I think, is the easiest and most stress-free way of getting some on your plate. And thanks to Farmer's Choice, who sent me this pheasant to try out, you can enjoy it any time of the year because they supply it frozen.
What I've done here is toss the slow cooked pheasant into a salad of colourful leaves like spinach, chard and rocket and add some roasted carrots. Butternut squash would also be beautiful here. Or sweet potato.
There's crispy bacon, which gives crunch and smokiness, and then this raspberry balsamic vinaigrette which is tart and sweet at the same time. It just works really well with that deep-flavoured pheasant meat.
Pheasant and Bacon Salad with Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette
1 whole pheasant, defrosted
1 garlic bulb, whole
2 bay leaves
two handfuls of salad leaves
2 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
handful of peeled and diced vegetables (butternut squash, sweet potato or carrots)
10 fresh raspberries, washed
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
First, check there are no giblets inside your pheasant (mine didn't have any) and place it in the bottom of your slow cooker's pot. Tumble in the garlic bulb and the bay leaves and then pour in enough cold water to just cover the pheasant. Replace the lid and cook on 'high' for 3-4 hours, until the meat can be easily shredded off the bone. Lift it out and leave to cool slightly on a plate or board.
Once the pheasant is cooked, you can roast your veggies. Put the oven on to gas mark 6/200ºC/400ºF and get out a shallow roasting tray. Peel and chop the butternut squash, carrots or sweet potato and cut into small, bite-sized dice. Scatter onto the roasting tray, drizzle with a little olive oil and salt and roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring them occasionally, until golden, sizzling and tender.
Grill the bacon until crisp and roughly chop.
Next, make the dressing. Combine the raspberries, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and the salt in a blender and blitz until smooth.
To serve, arrange the salad leaves on the plates. Pick the meat from the bones and scatter this all over the salad leaves. Crumble over the bacon pieces and then scatter over the roasted vegetables. Finish with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of the raspberry balsamic vinaigrette.
Disclosure: Farmer's Choice sent me the pheasant provided a contribution towards the ingredients used in this recipe. They're a supplier of fresh free-range meat, fish and game. I've been cooking with their meat and fish for over year now and I've been really impressed with the quality. Check out their website for more details.
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