Moroccan pheasant salad

Recipe from the Chef: Moroccan Pheasant Salad

Ingredients for 2:

1 young oven ready pheasant or 2 pheasant breasts

100gm pearl barley

Game, chicken or beef stock to cover

A few dried apricots, halved

A few dried pitted dates, halved

2tbsp Toasted whole almonds

1tsp Raz el Hanout

2tbsp Chopped fresh coriander

1-2tbsp Lemon juice (and/or some chopped preserved lemon)

Good knob of butter

Seasoning

A few choice winter leaves such as treviso, radicchio, mizuna, purslane and/or ornamental cabbage tops

Method:

1) Place the barley in a saucepan and cover well with the stock.

2) Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for 30ish minutes until cooked.

3) Drain the barley and place in a bowl, mix in all the other ingredients.  Stir well and check the seasoning. Set aside.

4) If using a whole bird, season and butter well inside and out and place in a hot oven, basting a couple times at 190 degrees Celsius for 40 min or until you reach an internal breast temp of 63 degrees Celsius.  Let rest for 15 minutes before carving as you would a chicken.

5) If using breasts, cook with care. A hot pan with a little oil, searing the skin sides brown for 4-5 minutes, turning over, decreasing the heat and basting in frothing butter for a further 2 minutes.  Let rest for 5. The key is to not overcook. Sous vide then sear would be great if you have the means.

To serve:

Arrange the winter leaves on two plates and top with the barley.  Slice the pheasant breasts with a sharp knife and arrange on top. A drizzle of rapeseed or olive oil with a little lemon juice to finish and tipple with anything from a dry Pinot Gris to a light Pinot Noir to a dry cider.

Notes:

On pheasant:

Not the easiest to cook nor the most flavoursome, but certainly the most regal and plentiful. Lean and healthy, a great entry point for those unsure of game.  Synonymous with the English countryside, yet it was the Romans that first brought them to these shores. Most of the country is, of course, flush with pheasant and now is the time to get yours before the season ends at the beginning of February.

I cannot stress enough the importance of cooking them…just.  An overcooked game bird is reminiscent of saw dust and not fit for anything other than the bin.

On barley:

Barley is too often overlooked.  A true winter warmer with a subtle nutty flavour and a glutinous release that is a pleasing thickener to any sauce/stew.

I love the idea of serving a creature with what it may have eaten.  Here we have given the barley a flavour treatment usually reserved for couscous or a tajine and served it with its ‘predator’.

Raz el Hanout:

A popular spice blend from Morocco that literally means ‘top of the shop’ in Arabic.  There is no set recipe blend but typically it contains; cardamom, chili, clove, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, nutmeg and turmeric among many others.  It also works well as a dry meat rub.

Moroccan pheasant salad