I regularly cook pheasant and duck and have settled on the following recipes as being the most delicious, both slow cooked. I haven't adapted these to cooking over an open fire yet, as the cooking times would take a lot of firewood - maybe the haybox method would be the way forward. So still some experimentation to be done there!!
I do all my game bird cooking in a casserole that can be used on the hob or in the oven and has a lid. Both recipes are good with roast potatoes and vegetables, as well as your choice of jellies and sauces. Extra gravy is not needed, as the juices from the cooking are excellent.
Fry some onions in oil. Fry the whole pheasant in with the onions so the outside is browned. Pour in a can of cider, crumble in a chicken oxo cube, stir. Add a couple of chopped apples (not the peels or the core) - Braeburn, Coxes or Granny Smiths would all be good in season. You might need to add some water - it should come at least half way up the pheasant when it's lying on it's back. Turn the pheasant so it's lying on it's side. Put the lid on and place in the oven at a low temp - gas 3 - for 2 or 3 hours until the pheasant is falling off the bone tender. Turn the pheasant half way through the cooking time, if you remember. (If not, it doesn't seem to matter, although it helps a bit with keeping it moist. I'm a bit lazy and tend to just lie it on its back and not bother with turning it.)
Take the pheasant out and keep it warm. Simmer the apple sauce mixture that's left in the casserole until it's about the right amount for a bit less than a pint of gravy (as much as you think, really - can't go very wrong here!). Add as much salt and pepper as you like - taste it to see. Add a dollop or two of creme fraiche and stir, pour over the pheasant meat and serve. Best with roast potatoes (I like maris piper) and a selection of lovely fresh vegetables.
I adapted the pheasant recipe to get this duck one - but it does taste very different and the gravy makes the most delicious gravy bread!
Fry some roughly chopped onions in oil. Fry the whole duck in with the onions so the outside is browned. Pour in a can of guiness or other bitter, crumble in a beef oxo cube, stir. You might need to add some water - the liquid should come at least half way up the duck when it's lying on it's back. Turn the duck so it's lying on it's side. Put the lid on and place in the oven at a low temp - gas 3 - for 2 or 3 hours until the duck is falling off the bone tender. Turn the duck half way through the cooking time, if you remember. (If not, it doesn't seem to matter much, although it helps a bit with keeping it moist.)
Take the duck out and keep it warm. Simmer the gravy that's left in the casserole. Use cornflour to thicken (mix a tablespoon full with cold water, then add to the gravy and stir) and add some juices from the fresh vegetables if you boil them. I've done this with Cranberry sauce and bread sauce and both made for excellent accompaniments.
If anyone else has come up with favourite game bird recipes or accompaniments, I'd love to hear them, and maybe give them a go myself!
They sound interesting. We've got a duck for Christmas, so I might well try the slow cook method.
I recently followed a mothod for roasted pheasant from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's meat book, and I have to say it was very good. He's advocating a three stage process for all roasts - "the sizzle", the roast and the rest. The total time given for pheasant is 30-40 minutes - depending on the size of the bird. I did 20 minutes at 220°C and then 20 minutes at 180°C, followed by a 10 minute rest. The breast meat was beautiful and moist - I often experience dry and over-cooked game - I've done it myself - so this was a bit of a turn up. Worth a try.
Incidentally, same method, total times for mallard 35-45 minutes, farmed duck 60-90 minutes, teal and widgeon 20-25 minutes.
I like to fry quale and grouse in about two centimeters of butter. First I butterfly the birds then fry them until done in the butter, I usually add some fresh sage and some garlic to the butter. It is very simple and very good.
Hi Skanker - thanks for the tip - I'll try that tomorrow (looks at clock - er - today) - I've got some pheasant to cook at the moment.
I ought to clarify that the ducks I slow cook with the method described are all wild ducks. My friend goes out beating with her dogs on the local shoots, and so a few brace come my way every so often. They have virtually no fat in them, so roasting is really difficult to get right - hence the dry meat you've experienced. But if you have farmed duck, then it will be too fatty to slow cook the way I described - the gravy would end up really greasy. I'm not sure what you're having for Christmas, but thought I'd better clarify just in case! For farmed ducks, I've found Deliah Smith's fast roasting method with a confit of sour cherries is really tasty. Basically, you put the duck on a rack in a roasting tin (or on crumpled tin toil - the idea is to keep it raised up out of the pan so that the grease drains away from the duck into the bottom of the pan, where it can be used to make the most delicious roast potatoes you've ever tasted.) Salt the duck on the outside to enhance the crunchiness and flavour of the skin. Cook for 1 hour and 50 mins (4lb duck including giblets) at gas 8/450F/230C. At the end of the cooking time, leave the duck in a warm place to rest for 20 mins before carving. So some similarities to the Hugh FW version you describe. The cherry confit I won't describe in detail, as Deliah's book serves that purpose.
Joshua - thanks for the Quail and Grouse tip - that does sound delicious. Has my mouth watering, anyway.
We take four or five grouse breasts, make slits in them, and insert strips of bacon. We put the grouse breasts with a can of Campbell's mushroom soup and a bunch of mushrooms in a crock pot and slow cook it for several hours.