Few handfuls of hay
1 med potato
1/3 of a med pumpkin
1 tbsp creme fraiche
1/2 tsp cumin
Knob of butter
2 tbsp flour
Salt & pepper to season
First give the hay a wash under some warm water and squeeze dry. Place the hay in a bowl and add 400ml of the cider. Weigh the hay down with something to ensure it that it is all submerged then leave to soak for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 220°C.
Put a frying pan on a medium to high heat and sear all sides of the pheasant until brown.
In a small oven proof dish place some of the cider soaked hay and then the pheasant on top. Take some more hay and cover the bird completely ensuring the hay is tucked in around the bird.
Pour a little cider over the top and place in the oven for 45 minutes, pouring a little more cider over half way through.
Place a pan of water boiling for the mash.
Take the pheasant out of the oven and remove the hay from around the top of the bird and return to the oven for a further 15-20 minutes. Rest the pheasant, covered with foil, for a further 15 minutes before serving.
For the pumpkin mash, peel the potato and pumpkin, cut into cubes and put into the pan of boiling water along with a pinch of salt. Boil until soft then drain and air for a few minutes before returning to the pan. Add another pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp of cumin, a dollop of creme fraiche and mash until smooth.
For the cider sauce, first make a rue. Take a small pan, place on a medium heat, add 2 tbsps of flour and a knob of butter. Stir until combined and then slowly adding the remaining 200ml of cider and 2-3 tbsps of the cider stock from the roast. The cider stock will provide a hint of hay flavouring but you do not want it to be too strong as this will be unpleasant.
For the fried apple, take a small frying pan and place on a medium to high heat. Cut the apple into discs and fry on both sides, in a little butter, until slightly coloured.
During pheasant season, I always try to get my hands on as many as possible, whether it be shooting my own, getting a few from the locals or simply from the butcher. Pheasant is the most common game bird in the British countryside with its shooting season lasting from the start of October and running until the start of February.
Make hay while the sun shines
Roasting with hay is a very old way to cook pheasant, however, traditionally the pheasant was roasted on a bed of hay only, rather than being fully covered. With the cider soaked hay steaming the bird as it cooks, it takes on a great secondary flavour of both.