This hearty game dish is worthy of any top-rated gastropub. Serve in place of Sunday lunch after a wintry walk.
2 young whole pheasants (preferably hens)
500g/1lb 2oz floury potatoes such as Maris Piper, peeled and cut into evenly sized pieces
1 free-range egg yolk
large pinch freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp white pepper
2 tbsp double cream
1 small onion, peeled, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, trimmed, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled, finely chopped
25g/¾oz plain flour
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Cut the breasts and legs from the pheasants, reserving the carcasses for the stock. (You can ask your butcher to do this for you.)
For the confit, place the pheasant legs into a non-metallic bowl and sprinkle all over with the salt. Set aside for at least 20 minutes and up to one hour.
Brush the salt from the pheasant legs and transfer them to a small ovenproof dish. Pour over the goose fat and add the garlic, garam masala, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and peppercorns. Move the pheasant legs around in the fat to ensure that they are completely covered.
Cover the dish with aluminium foil and cook the pheasant legs for 2-2½ hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone. Remove from the oven.
Remove the pheasant legs from the goose fat, reserving the goose fat. When the pheasant legs are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bone, discarding any skin and sinew.
While the pheasant legs are cooking, make the stock. For the stock, chop the reserved pheasant carcasses into smaller pieces using a large sharp knife or a meat cleaver.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the pheasant carcasses, onion, celery and carrot and fry for 3-5 minutes, or until browned. Add the thyme and chicken stock and bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering and simmer for one hour, skimming the foam that collects on the surface of the liquid at regular intervals.
Remove the stock from the heat and strain through a fine sieve lined with a piece of muslin, reserving the strained liquid in a clean saucepan. Set aside.
When the confit and stock have cooked, increase the oven temperature to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
For the gamekeeper’s pie, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the potatoes and boil for 15-20 minutes, or until tender. Drain well and mash thoroughly.
Beat the egg yolk, butter, nutmeg, white pepper and cream into the mashed potatoes until well combined. Set aside.
Heat one tablespoon of the reserved goose fat in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened but not coloured.
Stir in the pheasant leg meat and sprinkle over the flour. Continue to cook for two minutes, then pour in 200ml/7fl oz of the strained stock. Bring to a simmer and continue to simmer for 3-4 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.
Grease four muffin tins or large ramekins with more of the reserved goose fat.
Using a piping bag or spoon, fill each muffin tin with mashed potato, leaving one-quarter of the mashed potato aside.
Make a well in the middle of the mashed potato and fill with the pheasant mixture. Cover each pie with the remaining mashed potato. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, for the mash, place the swede, carrots and potatoes into a large saucepan. Add the stock cube and cover the pan contents with water. Bring the water to the boil, reduce the heat until the water is simmering and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Drain well and mash thoroughly with the butter. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Keep warm.
For the pheasant breasts and redcurrant sauce, keep the oven temperature at 200C/400F/Gas 6. Season the pheasant breasts with salt and freshly ground black pepper and trim the wing bones of any excess meat or sinew.
Heat the olive oil and one tablespoon of the reserved goose fat in a heavy-based, ovenproof frying pan. Add the thyme sprigs, then add the pheasant breasts, skin-side down. Fry for 2-3 minutes, or until the skin has browned, then turn and cook for a further two minutes on the other side.
Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 6-7 minutes, or until cooked to your liking. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the pheasant breasts to a warm plate to rest.
Return the pan to a medium to high heat. Add the remaining strained stock and bring to the boil, scraping the browned bits up from the bottom of the pan using a wooden spoon, to deglaze. Reduce the heat until the stock is simmering, then simmer until the volume of liquid has reduced by half. Stir in the redcurrant jelly.
To serve, carefully remove the gamekeeper’s pies from the muffin tins using a rounded knife. Place one into the centre of each of four plates. Spoon a quenelle of mash alongside, and place a pheasant breast on the other side. Spoon over the redcurrant sauce.
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