Wednesday, 1 September 2010

A bird in the bush is worth a brace in the fridge

Harvest time is fast approaching and the process of clearing the freezer and larder in preparation for the processing of apples, damsons, blackberries and irresistible bargains of the shooting season revealed a brace of pheasant overlooked since January (see previous story). A hearty game casserole felt inappropriate for August, despite the chill winds and gusting rain, but the arrival of house guests and dinner for ten spurred me to cook a terrine.

A terrine takes the slow cooking of minced meat and offal to a more elegant level than meat loaf or pate de campagne, encouraging all sorts of creativity. Nevertheless, the thought of using two complete birds also brought out my frugal side, so after the pheasant were boned out (the breast fillets kept whole and the rest of the meat whizzed in the food processor) the carcasses were roasted with a splash of olive oil for ten minutes, before the tin was deglazed with a splash of red wine. The bones and juices were then simmered with an onion studded with two cloves, a couple of carrots, a dried pea pod and a bay leaf, and water to cover by an inch or so.

Whilst the stock simmered, the minced pheasant was mixed with a pack of minced veal and minced pork, a finely chopped onion, clove of garlic, a handful of brown breadcrumbs, seasoning, a beaten egg and a generous slug of marsala wine. A loaf tin was lined with streaky bacon (stretched with back of knife to ensure thin strips long enough to encase the filling) then half the minced meats added, followed by two lines of delicious, rich brown, air-dried, preservative-free Hunza dried apricots interspersed with pistachio nuts, followed by the breast fillets, more apricots and pistachio nuts and then the remainder of the mince mixture.

Finally the ends of the bacon strips were wrapped across, two bay leaves popped on top and a foil lid secured. The terrine was put into a roasting tin half filled with boiling water and carefully put into the oven (gas mark 3) and left to cook gently for 1 hour 30 minutes until juices run clear. Removed from the oven, the terrine was left to cool in its own rich, fragrant juices for half an hour before being weighted down and refrigerated.

Turned out of its tin, the terrine was sliced into thick slices of rich meaty pate layered with tender fillets studded with golden sweet fruit and jewel like green nuts. Fronds of rocket and cornichon gherkins were all that were required, with toasted wholemeal bread.

As for the stock, it had been strained, left to cool and degreased, before adding a pack of dried wild mushrooms (soaked and chopped) with two four stalks of celery gently sauteed with a little butter and some leaves of fresh thyme stripped from their stalks, a cup of black Beluga lentils and simmered for 30 minutes. The final touch, was to stir in the delicious jellied juices from the terrine tin to create a fragrant hunter's soup sufficient for six people. A frugal yet voluptuous use of two old birds.

Hunza tribeswomen spreading apricots to dry in the Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan. (Credited to Kent B and Marti B Rieske of Bible Life Ministries, USA)
Pistachio nuts ripening at the Desert Demonstration garden in Las Vegas (Courtesy Wikipedia User Stan Shebs).

No comments:

Post a Comment