Pot-roast pheasant with chestnuts

This one is a keeper, from The Sunday Times magazine. I made this recipe just once this year, in November, when chestnuts abound and butchers have pheasants on offer. The red current jelly served on the side is a must.

Serves 4
2 oven-ready pheasants
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
100g smoked pancetta, cubed or cut into strips (I often get bacon rashers from local butcher and cube them)
12-15 small round shallots, peeled (or 4 banana shallots, peeled and halved) – 250g in total
1 big stick of celery, halved lengthways and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
200g cooked, peeled chestnuts, quartered (an easy way to cook chestnuts is to put them in a microwave, covered, for about 3 minutes)
125ml red wine
250ml chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of thyme
10cm strip of orange zest
1 tbsp redcurrant jelly

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Season the birds inside and out. Heat the oil in a casserole dish big enough to hold both pheasants. Add the birds and cook for a minute or so each side, to brown the skin. Remove from the pan and put to one side. Place the pancetta and shallots in the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, until they start to brown. Throw in the celery and garlic and stir for a couple of minutes more. Add the chestnuts and the birds, breast down. Pour over the wine, bubble for a minute, then add all the remaining ingredients. Stir, bring to a simmer, then cover and put in the oven for 40 minutes.

Finally, turn the pheasants breast side up. Return the dish to the oven for 15-20 minutes without the lid, to brown the breast a little. The pheasants are done when the legs pull away easily from the carcass.

Chestnut chocolate chilled cake

Nigella Lawson’s recipe as recommended by Jackie the other day has been an umitigated success.

Ingredients:

500g (2 tins) sweetened chestnut purée (I used one can of unsweetened Merchant Gourmet Chestnut puree, and followed the instructions on the tin to make it sweet, which produced the right quantity of chestnut puree for the recipe)
175g soft, unsalted butter
300g dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids
3 tablespoons dark rum

to serve:
crème fraîche
crystallised violets (didn’t use)

Beat the purée in a bowl until it’s smooth, and then add the butter, beating again to make a well-blended mixture.

Melt the chocolate and let it cool slightly, before adding it to the chestnut and butter in the bowl. Beat in the rum, and spoon the chocolate mixture into a 23 x 10cm loaf tin (I used a slightly deeper but approximately shaped tupperware box, which worked fine), lined with clingfilm, in two batches, making sure the first layer reaches the corners and sides of the bottom of the tin before you smooth over the rest. Wrap the overhanging clingfilm over the cake so that it is completely covered, and put it in the fridge to set for at least four hours, but a day or so in advance if you want.

Don’t take the loaf tin out of the fridge until you want to eat it, when you just unmould the cake, cut it into thin slices and serve with crème fraîche or sour cream.

I must say this was absolutely delicious, even without any cream.