Over the last few years I have cooked for upwards of 15 people. This year its just the two of us, for a very intimate chriatmas which I am looking forward to. For that reason we have moved away from the traditional meals to serve up things that just we like.
Main course this year is pheasant.
It's avery dry bird so I am making the stuffing as described below
Pheasant is however a very dry bird but the small size makes it possible to serve up a bird each (and also means I am not getting up at 6am to start preparing). Stuff each bird, as per taste then and make sure you add plenty of fresh thyme. Cover the breast of each one with really fatty streaky bacon. This means that they wont dry out. Then place them (as many as will fit) in a baking tray and cover with tin foil. If you start at 180 and gradually work up to 240 (last ten minutes) then they come out perfect. Total cooking time is between 35 and 45 minutes depending on the size of bird and how well it is stuffed.
Stuffing: My partner is allergic to nuts, which makes the traditional 'in bird' stuffing of Sausage meat Onions, Chestnuts, plum and herbs stuffing difficult. Instead I making a fruit sage and onion stuffing out of a cumberland sausage, Onions, breadcrumbs sage, onion, thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil, plums and an egg egg, salt, pepper and hot water. This stops the bird from drying out during cooking and creates an incredible stuffing that is both herby and fuity.
Im keeping some of that mixture back to and then add chestnuts for my pheasant, buth the beauty of cooking these birds is that you can make each one to order.
Roast potatoes: Boil the potatoes then let them sit. Add flour Thyme, Rosemary, Salt and Pepper to some sieved flour and toss the potatoes in this. Then add them to a roasting tray of vegetable oil. Heat the tray on the hob as you add them and they won't stick. Half way through cooking remove most of the oil, total cooking time 45 minutes. About 20 minutes before the end add some parsnips which have been boiled for about 5 minutes. You can also add honey to the parsnips about 10 minutes before the end
Carrots: Carrots are great for adding colour but are a bit boring. I steam them using Thyme and Ginger, which gives them a little bit of bite and makes them a bit different.
Peas: There isn't too much I know of that you can do with peas and so I boil them in water with salt sage. The sage gives them a nice fresh taste.
Sprouts: You either love em or hate em. Just to be different again, Im going to blanche my sprouts in water and then pan fry them briefly in olive oil, with ginger and Thyme. Believe it or not this does make them considerably more enjoyable. Try it!
Yorkshire Pudding: Its very English and not essential but I like it and so does my family. For fifteen I would add three cups of sieved flour to 2 eggs and 3 cups of milk. Add salt and whisk to a batter. The secret to these savoury puddings is to add oil to your metal baking tins (I like the ones that make sixteen little ones but it also works for grandma style large puddings), and ensure that this is very hot before you add the batter. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes or until they have risen and look golden. As long as your oil is hot they will rise, and be easy to remove from the tray when you are ready to serve.
Meat Gravy: Chop up some plums and simmer them in a pan for an hour or so. The idea is so that you get a really hot juicy stock. Remove the meat juices from the pan while the pheasants are standing. Add flour to make a roux. Add the Plum stock, and some thyme. Simmer until it thickens, add browning if you need it or want it. If you need to thicken it up just add some more Flour.