Last week for me was all about game. We've already touched on rabbit, so now I want to move onto Pheasant, whose season has just begun. On Tuesday night I was invited by the JamieOliver.com crew into the Fifteen training kitchen for a pheasant masterclass with Fifteen Cornwall Head Chef Andy Appleton, Fifteen London Head Chef Jon Rotheram and the amazing Gennaro Contaldo who makes me almost want to forget French cooking and totally focus on Italian food for the core of my inspiration. So, you can imagine that come Friday morning when I was wondering around Borough Market ready to shoot my second Borough Market Challenge column and I spied some new season pheasant breasts at Furness Poultry & Game I was suddenly totally inspired. Lucky for those of you who don't like Middle Eastern food really, because Yotam Ottolenghi was filming in the market on Friday morning, so if I'd seen him before I saw the pheasant, there is no doubt in my mind that is where my recipe inspiration would have come from!
Can I just say that thanks to the amazing pheasant dish Andy made, I now really, really want to go to Cornwall so I can eat at Fifteen Cornwall (though, I still need to get further than cocktails at the bar at Fifteen London, to be honest!) However, just the way things worked out with the produce I loved in the market, I'm going to be focusing on some of the magic that was happening last week with Gennaro and Jon.
I know pheasant seems a bit scary to some people, but really, it is just another bird. Just like duck, just like chicken but with its own unique flavour. Some people tell me it is too gamey for their tastes, but it all depends on how long the bird has been hung for after it was shot. The less of a game taste you want, the sooner you want to cook it after death. If you want to know the age of your meat, ask your butcher, market vendor or farm shop person. The way we're cooking this pheasant breast here is really basic and simple, and I honestly think anyone could do it. Gennaro said you'd never find it on a fancy restaurant menu, because it is just too easy. It is a traditional Italian dish, and he served it up with an amazing potato dish baked with tomatoes, onion and oregano I'm hoping to snag the recipe for, because I was too busy watching him cook to take notes!
Essentially, we are flavouring the pheasant with chilli and rosemary, as well as a bit of salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil. Here I just want to give a shout out to Elsey & Bent in the far corner of the market who always have the most amazing displays, and whose chillis I really love. Pro tip from Gennaro Contaldo, if you want to check how strong a chilli is? Snap it and sniff! I find these chillis are great as you can do a lot with them, without the seeds they can be mild, but with they give such a brilliant kick.
Leave the skin on your pheasant breast (I took mine off here to see if you could make the dish a bit healthier without compromising flavour. You can't.) and bash it out on a board with your fist until it is flattered. Season with salt and pepper and lay a whole red chilli, with or without seeds sliced lengthways across the breast with a rosemary sprig. Fold over and flatten out again. Gennaro did not fold it over, but I find that unless you're used to fan frying like this, it helps your flavours stay in without them falling out of the breast. Heat extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan until very hot (you want to seal the meat as quickly as possible so you don't loose moisture). In my kitchen at the moment I have a big bottle of rosemary infused oil; this was perfect.
Seal both sides of the breast until browned. A trick Gennaro taught us was to keep the breast flat and to help it cook is to place something heavy on top. I used a mug, but traditionally it is done with an oiled brick to stop it sticking. Turn the breast over when brown, and when it is browned on both sides and it has cooked through set it aside, covered in tin foil on a warm plate to rest with any juices from the pan poured on top.
Now, our side dish courtesy of Jon Rotheram, who served his kale up as part of an amazing dish of pheasant and smokey pork sausages with game chips, something that has been served up at Fifteen London. I'd never cooked kale before, or really eaten it. Like quinoa, it was something I shot myself in the foot with when I first came across it in Los Angeles by making fun of my roommate for cooking masses of it as a health food, and as a result making it that I'd have to eat my words to make it myself. I'm pretty stubborn sometimes!
Tear or chop a large handful of kale into large pieces and toss into the pan with a generous helping of sea salt. As ever, my poison of choice is Breton Fleur de Sel I pick up in Brittany. Lower the heat to just below medium and toss the kale pieces occasionally until they are slightly crispy and charred around the edges. It does not matter if you make too much kale, as it is fantastic and like crispy seaweed cold. I'm now a little obsessed. Enjoy, and thanks to Jamie's team for an amazing evening. If you want more photos and detailed bits about what we all learnt, Fiona's post from the evening is so much better than mine, and if you are curious about what Andy cooked, and Rachel has posted the recipe for his incredible Squash & Chestnut Caponata. And finally, I think the photography in Annie's blog post has outdone absolutely all of us.