Pheasant is pleasant change of menu

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An unexpected bounty this week. I love unexpected bounties. That’s how we found ourselves on Monday night, suddenly dining in luxury instead of plodding through the pork chops, rice and veg that had been the original plan.

It started when a male friend (recently single) was chatting to a (non-mutual) friend and the subject of shooting came up, and a (very mutual) liking for game was discovered.

The next thing, as often happens in the Borders, our friend’s friend (I’m sorry, dear reader/s, I am truly not trying to confuse you) went on a shoot and our friend found himself in possession of a fair few pheasant (of the dead variety).

I receive a phone call after this, in which my friend informs me he has been given “some pheasants”. Naturally, as a keeper of random poultry, I ask: “Alive, or dead?”

I am at this point hoping it’s the latter, as pheasant would require their own run building (and as I ask I am pondering how I could put a temporary run on the stone shed, which has previously served as a piggery and a turkey barn), or whether I should evict Charlie Hebdo (the previously un-named French cockerel) and his lay-dees and pop them in there.

Phew. They are dead. And his bounty are being proffered in exchange, we decide, for the appropriate amount of hens’ eggs.

The deal is struck, and after a cuppa and a catch-up, he departs and we set about preparing the birds – thus bumping fairly pedestrian pork chops to Tuesday’s meal.

And so we skin the birds and take off the breasts and legs. I have never dealt with pheasant before and was wondering – perhaps somewhat naively – just how my petite hand would fit inside when Gamford informed me that this isn’t how pheasant are dressed. They prefer a smart suit, teeny tiny top hat and monocle.

No, seriously, it turns out they are either cut open to gut and clean, or you can remove the breasts.

How simple, and how much do I now love pheasant even more.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to pluck and dress turkeys and chickens for the table, but I wouldn’t want to do it every day, or as a fun hobby.

And so it was that we sat down to a fine repast of pheasant, slowly roasted in the oven with strips of bacon on top to stop it becoming dry, home-grown roast potatoes (from the freezer), broccoli, Yorkshire puddings and lashings of gravy.

I only found one piece of shot whilst prepping the birds, so I put it by and got a small dish out of the cupboard.

After giving the shot to the YMs to examine, I took great delight in explaining to them what it was, and how they might get the odd bit in their teeth and to be careful to not swallow, but spit it out on to the dish.

I wish I’d taken a picture of their faces. Priceless.

Just like the pheasant.