Tim Maddams Recipes: Game Ragu
River Cottage Handbook 15: ethically sourced meat advocate Tim Maddams offers a healthy alternative to beef with this succulent pheasant recipe.
Try this succulent pheasant recipe for a flavoursome, healthy alternative to red meat.
This is one of those dishes that is less of a faff than it might seem. It takes a while to cook, but for most of that time you can just ignore it and let it do its own thing. Timewise, it will more than pay you back when you need a quick lunch dish at the drop of a hat as, once the batch is done, you can freeze it in portion sizes that suit your needs. It makes a great sauce for pasta, a good base for stews or, with the addition of a few lentils and a little more stock, it can be served as a hearty soup. I have given quantities for 10 portions, but you can easily scale it up or down according to how much pheasant leg you have to hand. I also do the same dish with rabbit, hare, wild boar and grey squirrel (you’ll need 5 squirrels).
500ml game stock, light or dark (see p.207), or chicken stock will do
A handful of dried ceps
2 onions, peeled
1 large carrot, peeled
1 celery stick
4 garlic cloves, peeled
Rapeseed or light olive oil, for cooking
10 pheasant legs on the bone, thighs separated from drumsticks
2 rashers of streaky bacon (smoked or unsmoked), chopped
1 tsp coriander seeds
½ cinnamon stick
1 tsp each chopped thyme and rosemary, or a good pinch of dried mixed herbs
500ml tomato passata
A glass of dry cider
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 120°C/Gas mark ½.
Heat your stock in a pan to simmering point, then remove from the heat and drop in the dried ceps. Leave for about 15 minutes until they are tender, then fish them out and chop them finely. Strain the stock through a muslin-lined sieve or coffee filter paper to get rid of any grit; set aside.
Finely chop the onions, carrot, celery and garlic. You can do all this in a blender if you like, pulsing the veg until well chopped.
Place a large flameproof casserole dish over a medium-high heat and add a little oil. Season the pheasant legs generously with salt and pepper and brown them in the hot pan, in batches, transferring the pheasant to a plate once it is coloured.
When all the pheasant is browned, add the bacon to the pan, followed by the chopped ceps, vegetables, garlic, spices and herbs. Lower the heat and cook for around 10 minutes, to soften the vegetables. Add the passata and cook for another 10 minutes, adjusting the seasoning as you go.
Now add the cider and stock and bring to a slow simmer. Add the browned pheasant, put the lid on and put in the oven for 4 hours. Take it out of the oven to check if the meat is tender; it should be just about falling off the bone by this point. If, however, it’s still a little tough when you taste it, put it back in the oven and leave it for another hour.
Once it is cooked, leave to cool and then lift out the pheasant legs from the sauce. Pick out the bones and sinews and return the meat to the sauce. Stir well and check the seasoning. The ragu is now ready to serve, or you can keep it in the fridge or freezer for later use.
If serving the ragu with pasta, toss through and finish with a scattering of chopped parsley, freshly grated Parmesan and a trickle of extra virgin olive oil, if you like.
Recipe extracted from River Cottage Handbook No.15 by Tim Maddams introduced by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Bloomsbury Publishing, Hardback £13.49)