Preparation: 15 mins
Cooking: 2.5 hours
The soft sweetness of figs tempers the gamey flavour of pheasant, and the unctuousness of the dried fruit makes up for the bird’s tendency to dryness, while the fresh fruit relieves the richness. Pot-roasting is a good method for guinea fowl, too. All you need to serve with the dish is mashed potato (or game chips, deep-fried, thinly sliced potatoes, for traditionalists) and some fresh watercress.
6 slices streaky bacon
200g cooked beetroot (not in vinegar)
1 thyme sprig
150g dried baby figs
150ml (generous glass) white wine
150ml water2 pheasants
2 fresh figs, cut into eighths, to finish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 160°C/gas mark 3.
Chop three of the streaky bacon slices into matchsticks, and cut the beetroot into chunks. Put the chopped bacon, beetroot, thyme and dried figs in the base of a flame-proof lidded casserole (one that can be put on the hob as well as in the oven). Pour over the wine and water.
Season the pheasants with salt and pepper and put them in the casserole, breast side down. Cover the casserole with foil or greaseproof paper and put the lid on, to make a tight seal. Roast for 11/2–2 hours, until the pheasants are tender.
Turn up the temperature to 200°C/gas mark 6. Remove the lid and foil and turn the birds breast up. Cut the remaining three slices of bacon in half and lay over the breast of the pheasants. Return the casserole to the oven (uncovered) and roast for 10–15 minutes until the meat is browned.
Remove the pheasants to a serving dish and keep warm. Put the casserole on the hob and boil to reduce the juices, to make a sauce consistency. If the liquid needs thickening (it depends on whether the figs have burst or remained whole), then scoop out a few of the figs and some of the juice and purée with a hand blender before returning to the pot.
Stir in the fresh figs and warm through. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning.
This recipe is from The Contented Cook by Xanthe Clay (Kyle Books, £19.99)
Photography: Tara Fisher