The main reason for putting up this recipe was that I also wanted to put up some excellent accompaniments (thyme-stuffed shallots and thyme-scented game chips) and a fantastic way to use up leftover pheasant (pheasant and bulgur pilav). I recently got a black-feathered cock pheasant from my Uncle, which I used for this recipe. It seemed to have a lot of thigh meat which was particularly useful the next day. To lard the bird I used the lovely thinly sliced smoked streaky bacon from Downland Produce and butter from Hurdlebrook. The cider was Millwhites Whisky-aged.
1 large pheasant; 4 rashers smoked streaky bacon; 30 g unsalted butter; fresh thyme; a few cracked juniper berries; salt and pepper; 1 pint roast pheasant (or chicken) stock; 1/2 pint farmhouse cider
Lay the pheasant breast up in a roasting tin on a generous bed of thyme. Place more thyme into the cavity. Season all over with salt, pepper and some cracked juniper. Lay slices of butter all over the breasts then cover this with the rashers of bacon. Tie the ends of the legs together.
Place into a hot (200°C) oven and roast for 45–50 minutes, until the juices run just clear when the thick part of the breast is pierced with a skewer. Baste every 20 minutes or so and remove the bacon for the last 10 minutes and turn up the heat to brown the skin. Remove from the oven. Take the bird out of the roasting dish and leave to rest in a warm place. Keep all the juices and bits in the dish.
Get the roasting dish over a high heat and add the cider. Boil and reduce by about half, scraping the bottom of the dish to lift all the browned bits into the gravy. Add the stock the pour everything into a jug. Allow to settle then skim off the fat from the top or use a basting pipette or separating jug to remove the stock and cider gravy from underneath. Strain the gravy into a saucepan, bring to the boil and reduce by only about one fifth. I prefer the gravy to be quite thin for this recipe.