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Roast Pheasants with Chestnut Stuffing and Port and Chestnut Sauce

Roast Pheasants with Chestnut Stuffing and Port and Chestnut SauceChestnuts complement pheasant perfectly, and now that you can buy them already peeled, recipes like this one are much less work than they used to be.

  • 2 pheasants, about 1 pound 14 ounces (750g) each
  • 2 ounces (50g) of butter butter, softened
  • 6 rashers of dry-cure streaky bacon, derinded and cut in half
  • salt and freshly milled black pepper

For the chestnut stuffing:
  • 4 ounces (110g) of chestnuts from a 200g vacuum pack, roughly chopped (reserve remainder for the sauce)
  • 1/2 ounce (10g) of butter
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 rashers of dry-cured streaky bacon, derinded and chopped
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of chopped parsley
  • 2 level teaspoons of fresh chopped thyme
  • 4 ounces (110g) of pork sausage meat
  • a pinch of ground mace

For the port and chestnut sauce:
  • 3 fluid ounces (75ml) of ruby port
  • the remainder of the chestnuts, halved
  • 1 level tablespoon of plain flour
  • 1/2 pint (275ml) of Giblet Stock, or use one 284ml carton of quality chicken stock

You will also need a roasting tin 10 x 14 inches (22.5 x 35 cm) and some foil. Pre-heat oven to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C).

Begin by making the stuffing. First heat the butter in a small pan and soften the onion and bacon over a medium heat until golden and tinged brown at the edges (about 10 minutes). Then allow this to cool before mixing it with the rest of the stuffing ingredients.

Now wipe the inside of the pheasants with damp kitchen paper and season well. Divide the stuffing between the body cavities of the two pheasants. Now rub the softened butter all over the skins, then lay the bacon rashers across the breast of each pheasant. Next, place the birds in the roasting tin and cover loosely with foil, allowing room for the air to circulate around and above the birds. Pop them into the oven, roast for 30 minutes, then remove the foil. Now baste the birds well and return them to the oven for a further 30 minutes, basting frequently. After that, remove the bacon to a heatproof plate, place on a lower shelf in the oven, baste the pheasants again and roast for another 15 minutes until they're cooked. Test this by piercing the thighs with the skewer and checking that the juices run clear. When they are ready, transfer to a warm plate to rest.

Now make the sauce. To do this, pour off any excess fat from the tin, then place the tin over medium direct heat and stir the flour into the juices. When it is smooth, add the port, then switch to a whisk to disperse any lumps. Gradually add the stock, taste and season, then add the remaining halved chestnuts and simmer for about 5 minutes before pouring it into a serving jug.

Carve the pheasant by running a knife down either side of the breastbone and lifting the whole side away from the carcass. Then cut each half into two joints (breast and leg). Serve each person two joints, some crispy bacon and stuffing with the sauce poured over.

This recipe first appeared in Sainsbury's Magazine (Guide to Poultry and Game Cookery).

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