Pheasant ragoo with grilled polenta

Serves 4
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Indy Lifestyle Online

The polenta is the perfect neutral partner for this rich, gamey stew.

For the sauce

2 pheasants
1 large onion, peeled, roughly chopped
3 medium cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for frying
2tbsp flour, plus some extra for dusting
2tsp tomato purée
A good knob of butter
250ml red wine
1.5 litres beef stock
A few sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
6 juniper berries, chopped
10 black peppercorns
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the polenta

500ml milk
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
A pinch of nutmeg
75g quick cooking polenta
75ml double cream
75g freshly grated Parmesan

The day or night before, make the polenta: bring the milk to the boil in a thick-bottomed pan, then add the garlic, bay leaf, salt and pepper and nutmeg.

Simmer for 5 minutes, then whisk in the polenta and cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring every so often so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the cream and Parmesan and cook for a further 5 minutes. Line a small rectangular container with clingfilm and pour in the polenta. Leave to cool, then refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Remove the legs from the pheasants and divide them at the joint, so you separate the drumstick and thigh. Remove the bone from the thigh with the point of a sharp knife, cut the meat of each thigh into four and put to one side. Remove the breasts and cut each into six and put with the thigh meat. Cut the drumsticks into 3 pieces through the bone with the back of a heavy chopping knife or a cleaver. Chop the carcass into small pieces and put the bones into a roasting tray with the drumsticks, onion, carrot, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil, tomato purée, herbs, peppercorns, berries and flour. Mix together and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring again every so often, until lightly coloured.

Put the tray on the top of the stove on a low heat, add the butter and stir well. Gradually stir in the red wine, stirring well to remove any residue on the bottom of the tray, and then slowly add the hot beef stock. Simmer for one hour, skimming occasionally, then strain the sauce through a fine-meshed sieve.

Season the pieces of pheasant with salt and pepper and dust with a tablespoon of flour. Heat about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a frying pan and sauté the pheasant for 4 or 5 minutes on a high heat, until lightly coloured; drain on kitchen paper.

Put the pheasant into a heavy-bottomed saucepan with the sauce, bring to the boil and simmer for about 1-1 hours on top of the stove or in a low oven in a casserole dish on 160C/gas mark 3, or until the sauce has reduced to about half and thickened. The pheasant should be just breaking up and soft, but not completely disintegrated. You may need to add some water if the sauce reduces too much.

To serve, cut the polenta into 1-1 cm-thick slices. Preheat a ribbed griddle pan or a heavy-based or non-stick frying pan. Brush the griddle with oil or add a couple of tablespoons to the frying pan. Lightly dust the slices of polenta with flour and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until nicely coloured and crisp.

Serve the polenta on warmed plates with the ragoo spooned on top.

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