Pheasant Casserole! I can't think of anything more suitable for a cold November. I once had it at a Sunday lunch party, served with a jug of foamy Black Velvet- and this worked surprisingly well. If you don't know anyone who shoots, pheasant are amazingly cheap to buy, either from your local butcher or decent supermarket such as Waitrose.
Believe me, I've plucked a few pheasants in my time, and I have to say that I'm not sure that it's worth the hassle, when you can a) get the butcher to pluck them for you (and do a much better job) or b) buy them from the shops, ready plucked, for a few quid.
Here's my family recipe for pheasant casserole (from The ABC of Tried and Tested Recipes), which I've adapted slightly from the original version.
Take a large cock pheasant and fry it in butter and oil, until lightly browned. Add a dash of cognac, and flambé it quickly until the flames die down. Remove the pheasant and put it into a casserole.
In the same pan, fry some chopped bacon, diced celery and carrots cut into batons. Add two tablespoons of flour, and cook. After a few minutes pour in half a bottle of red wine (I suggest using a Burgundy or a Rhone) and top up with some chicken or game stock.
Bring to the boil, and simmer gently so that the alcohol burns off. Pour it over the pheasant in the casserole and add 50g button mushrooms and 175g button or baby onions.
Cook in a moderate oven for just over an hour. Pheasant has a tendency to get dry and stringy very quickly, so I've cut down the cooking time. I'm sure you'll get the drift: you want lots of sauce, and you need to make sure that you don't over cook the pheasant.
When you reckon the pheasant is ready, take the casserole out of the oven and let it cool down. Lift out the pheasant and carve it up: cut the legs and wings off and carve the breasts. Place the carved meat in a flat casserole dish with the sliced breasts in the centre, surrounded by the legs and the wings. Place the vegetables, mushrooms and onions over the pheasant.
Strain off the sauce through a sieve into a small sauce pan- this will get rid of all the nasty bits and pieces. Add two teaspoons of redcurrant jelly to the sauce and chuck in some crushed juniper berries. I'm currently crazy about juniper (which, of course, is used to flavour gin). It has a rich, pine-nut, woodlandly sort of taste and works beautifully with game. Check the seasoning. When the sauce is at the right consistency, pour it back over the pheasant.
Serve the casserole with parsnip chips.