This heartily autumnal roast pheasant supper will make you yearn for even more cold nights.
1 large onion, chopped
1 litre/1¾ pints water
pinch chicken bouillon powder (or pinch chicken stock cube)
4 large chicory, any discoloured outer leaves removed
110g/4oz finely sliced smoked bacon lardons
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the quince purée, heat the sugar, water, butter and lemon juice in a non-reactive saucepan until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is well combined. Add the quince and bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering and continue to simmer until the quince has softened. Strain off the liquid, reserving a little of it.
Transfer the drained quince to a food processor and blend to a smooth purée. Pass the purée through a fine sieve, loosening the strained mixture with a little of the reserved cooking liquid if necessary.
Place the quince purée into a clean saucepan, season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cover with cling film until required.
For the caramelised walnuts, preheat a deep fat fryer to 190C/375F.
Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan until dissolved.
Add the walnuts and bring the mixture to the boil. Continue to cook until the temperature of the sugar syrup reaches 110C/225F (use a sugar thermometer to check this).
Remove the walnuts from the syrup using a slotted spoon and carefully lower them into the deep fat fryer. (CAUTION: The walnuts are coated in a liquid that may spit upon contact with the oil. Stand well back and keep your face and hair away from the deep fat fryer.) Fry the walnuts until golden-brown, then remove from the oil using a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with sea salt.
For the braised chicory, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Place the onion, salt and 50g/2oz of the butter into an ovenproof saucepan. Fry the onion, stirring well, until softened.
Add the water, chicken bouillon, sugar, bouquet garni and chicory and bring to the boil.
Cover the pan with aluminium foil and transfer to the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until tender and cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Once cool, drain the braised chicory and slice into thin strips. Squeeze out any excess water.
Heat the remaining 20g/¾oz butter in a separate frying pan over a medium heat. Add the lardons and fry until browned, then add the cooked chicory and continue to cook until the water has evaporated.
Add the garlic purée, stir well, then season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Keep warm.
For the pheasant, increase the oven temperature to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
Season the pheasant breasts with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat the oil and a knob of butter in an ovenproof frying pan over a high heat. Add the pheasant breasts, skin-side down, and fry until golden-brown.
Turn the pheasant breasts over and transfer the pan to the oven. Continue to cook the pheasant for 5-6 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from the pan, leaving behind the pan juices, and set aside to rest.
Add the mushrooms to the same pan the pheasant was cooked in and fry in the resting juices until softened, adding a splash of water to deglaze the pan if necessary. Stir in the chopped parsley, then stir in the remaining butter until melted. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
To serve, place some of the braised chicory into the centre of each of four serving plates. Smear a line of quince purée alongside using the back of a spoon. Place one pheasant breast on top of each portion. Spoon over the mushroom, in their sauce. Garnish with the caramelised walnuts.
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