Pheasant Soup

As I considered the plump little pheasant in my hands, my mind immediately jumped to a memory of casserole topped with a curly wurly crust of fresh dough – the bread risen and baked to a fluffy top, ready for ripping and dunking into the gamey broth below. Then I remembered my habit of lending out dishes, roasting tins and baking trays, and the fact that my casserole dish has been similarly waylaid. I’m thinking of encouraging an amnesty: a box outside the front door where people can just slip the items in anonymously.

Casserole dreams shattered, I poo-pooed the idea of roasting and challenged myself to draw maximum flavour from this famously stupid bird. Generally found rooted to the middle of the country road, oblivious to screeching of tyres, beeping of horns and cursing of motorists – the thing practically tastes of stubbornness. Considering the fact they seem to sit around so much, pheasants are surprisingly lean and therefore easily dried out, plus those stringy, fusty-tasting drumsticks are, more often than not, plain unpleasant.

I think much of the bird is better used as a flavour base and so I jointed him, slinging the legs into a pot with some aromatics (a.k.a the contents of the fridge plus some herbs and  juniper berries), along with the roughly chopped carcass. The breasts were pan-fried until barely cooked, ready to add back to the broth in the final moments of cooking. A few fine shreds of savoy cabbage gave extra nourishing winter heart and parsley, grassy pungency.

The resulting soup powered right through to our chilled, dampened bones with the kind of restorative effect that can only come from simmering some animal bits in a big old pot over a teeny little flame for a moderate amount of time.  A generous hunk of crusty loaf was plunged and plunged again into meaty depths, sucking up robust,  peppery juices; dunk slurp, dunk slurp and wipe the bowl clean. A piping hot end to a fine little bird and a cold winter’s day.

Pheasant Soup

1 pheasant
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 fat spring onion, roughly chopped
1 small carrot, chopped into three
A few juniper berries
1 bouquet garni (thyme, bay and parsley stalks for example)
500ml chicken stock
500ml water
A good slug of brandy (I used Courvoisier)
40g butter
30g flour
1/2 small savoy cabbage, cored and leaves finely shredded
About 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Put your pheasant breast side up on a chopping board and remove the legs by pulling them away from the breast and using a sharp knife to cut them at the joint. Remove each breast by cutting along either side of the central bone and then following the line of the carcass until the meat is free. Chop the carcass into a few pieces as best you can manage.

Rub the breasts with oil, season, and cook skin side down in a skillet on high heat for about 4 minutes, then turn and cook for another 2-3 minutes another until just cooked through. Set aside.

Put the legs and carcass pieces in a large pot and add the onion, spring onion, carrot, juniper berries, bouquet garni, brandy, stock and water, bring to the boil and then simmer gently for about 45 minutes, skimming every now and then if necessary. Remove the legs from the stock and set aside, then strain the soup through a fine sieve. Return to the pan.

Melt the butter in a separate pan then mix in the flour on a low heat. Stir this into the soup and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the shredded cabbage and simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove the meat from the legs, then shred the breast meat and add both back to the soup during the final few moments (you don’t want to cook it any more). Check the seasoning, add the parsley, and serve.

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19 thoughts on “Pheasant Soup

  1. I passed a farm shop (The Purbeck Larder, Lytchett Matravers, Dorset) at the weekend and bought a raw, frozen pheasant carcass for 50p! Am about to slightly adapt your recipe, although it’s not exactly chilly tonight.

  2. Hello Henry, your version sounds lovely! We have been talking on Twitter, am I right? You used kale as well? I love that idea. I am so glad that you made the recipe, and, more importantly, that you enjoyed it!

  3. made this tonight helen. it was absoutely delicious. ended up with very rich gamey flavour to the base stock. adding the cabbage at the end was good touch so retained crunch to it. also made it with 2 partridge not pheasant. still delicious!

  4. Peter – Ha ha, well I certainly wouldn’t give up chicken for pheasant. Grouse, maybe…Actually, no – I couldn’t do it!

    Shayma – yeah I agree, cabbage is so under-used too. Poor thing has a bad rep.

    Lizzie – Ha ha, no worries. I was just having a little joke. Obviously though at some point it would be good to have them back!

    Gastrogeek – Thanks! It was indeed a great restorer. Some proper hearty fare!

    Ollie – Definitely.

    Alexthepink – I really felt is transformed the humble thing. Nowt worse than a dry pheasant.

    GreedyDiva – Thank you.

    LexEat! – Thanks. I wasn’t sure about that photo so I’m relieved to find someone likes it.

    Dan – yes, it is snowing as I type! we don’t want to those poor little pheasants getting cold out there either – much warmer in the pot.

    Jassy – ha ha! Yes, castles. Lovely. I’m just off to design my own family crest now.

    Niamh – Thanks.

    Martin – Hmm, you could be on to something but then again, the pig is the greatest of all animals. The octopus is pretty darn tasty too and they are supposed to be super intelligent. Your theory is crumbling dude, CRUMBLING!

    Essex Eating – Ta very much.

    James – A bit of pearly barley for substance would have been just the ticket.

    Jonathan – I thought you’d like that! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, nowt more disappointing than a dried out pheasant.

  5. I’m convinced that the stupider the animal, the better it tastes, with the obvious exception of the piggies, who are allegedly quite smart. The pheasant is one of my favourites, noble, but oh so very dumb. I’ve heard (and this may be utter BS) that the males get randy, and, in their hormone-fuelled mental state believe they can take anything on, including the Human Car, hence why they try and stare down the noisy metal machines.

    Still, makes ’em easier to snag and eat, so I’m not complaining. Yum!

  6. Hmm your pheasant (soup) looks most pleasant. Considering it’s supposed to getting very wintery and cold soon, this sounds like the perfect dish.


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