Pheasant Breast a l'Orange with dried apricots and prosciutto
The term 'game' applies to wild animals and birds that are hunted and eaten. It also includes birds and animals once caught in the wild that are now raised domestically, such as quail, rabbit and deer (the latter two can be farmed or wild; quails are no longer allowed to be shot in the wild, so are always farmed).
Wild game's generally more flavoursome than farmed meat, and maybe a little tougher, depending on the age of the animal. To counteract the toughness, it's 'hung' after shooting to help tenderise the meat and encourage the development of 'gamey' flavours. The longer meat is hung, the more pronounced the flavour will become, but hanging periods usually range from two days (for rabbit) to up to 12 days (for venison).
Game falls into two categories. The first is feathered game or game birds, including grouse, pheasant, partridge, quail, snipe, wild duck, woodcock and wood pigeon. The second is furred game, including hare, rabbit, venison and 'wild' boar.
We've selected this sophisticated pheasant recipe because it is full of bold and interesting flavours, and perfect for a romantic evening in.
6 plump, juicy dried apricots
12 rashers thinly sliced prosciutto or streaky bacon
4 thyme sprigs
knob of butter
2 tbsp olive oil
squeeze of orange juice
zest and juice 2 oranges
1 in cinnamon stick (or 1 tsp ground)
1 tsp honey
3 tbsp soy sauce
Cut each pheasant in half across the middle, lengthways so that you have 4 thin slithers of breast. Cut the apricots in the same way. Lay out 3 overlapping slices of prosciutto or bacon and place a sprig of thyme on top.
Pop a piece of breast on top of this and lay 3 pieces of apricot on top of the breast. Season with salt and pepper, then wrap the prosciutto tightly around the pheasant to form a parcel. Repeat with the remaining pheasant, prosciutto and apricot to make 4 parcels. You can make these the day before and chill overnight.
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan over a high flame and add the butter and 1 tbsp oil. When the fats are sizzling, add the pheasant parcels and cook for 3-4 mins on each side until the prosciutto is crisp and golden. The heat from the pan will seal the prosciutto tightly around the pheasant breast.
Pop the breasts onto a baking tray and roast in the oven for 5-7 mins to finish cooking. Meanwhile, add the zest and juice from the 2 oranges, cinnamon, honey and soy to the pan juices and simmer to reduce until syrupy. Toss the watercress with the remaining oil and a squeeze of orange juice. Serve the pheasant parcels with the orange sauce, watercress and rice.