The Game Chef, Tom Godber-Ford Moore, heads out for some Covid-safe rough shooting followed by cooking with a Korean twist. Tom writes:
It was an inevitable email, but nonetheless depressing, stating as it did in block capitals as if to heighten the blow: ALL SHOOTS CANCELLED. The last of an endless succession of corona-spondence this past season, this one dealing the final, painful death knell.
The pheasant and partridge season means one thing to me these days – work. Providing hospitality to those lucky enough to be testing themselves on some of the most challenging birds in the world has become my wintertime bread and butter and made Exmoor my home. It’s a wonderful thing to be part of. It does however mean that, the odd driven day aside, most of my enjoyment comes in the form of a few hours walking up on some ground on which I am lucky enough to be able to do so. It was little wonder then, as I contemplated the complete car crash of finances I faced over the next month, that I waited with baited breath to find out if Covid-safe rough shooting would be deemed a lawful activity, and how very pleased I was to find the outcome positive.
It was with a light step that I wound my way along the hedgerows, in the cleaves under the woods and beneath old plots. All the turgid concerns of balances and outgoings forgotten for those few precious hours of the day, the faithful hound my only companion, some days working with textbook aplomb, and others deciding he had far more pressing issues on his mind.
The result, of course, aside from a fresh air induced Covid-free zen, was an awful lot of meat, the majority of which is now sitting pretty in the home freezer. By the time you are reading this, with a bit of luck (or rather, a lot) we could be easing out of our third and hopefully final national lockdown. Spring will be making its move over winter, and we will be looking to lighter and warmer days ahead. Funnily enough, I have never yet tired of eating pheasant, finding it the most versatile of all the game meats, and as the seasons change so too does my cooking style, and I suspect this helps. After a long cold winter of hearty British and continental fare, as things warm up my cooking often sails off from these shores to distant lands, and in this instance I have run aground on the eastern coasts of the Yellow Sea, somewhere amongst the smoke and steam of street traders of Korea.
Anything you can do with chicken you can do with pheasant, but to achieve the best results you must never forget that the pheasant is the marathon runner to the chickens’ couch potato. As you may have read in these columns before, the easiest way around this is brining, and it will transform the meat to the most succulent and tender game you have eaten. The process is easy: simply dissolve one tablespoon of salt in 200mls of boiling water, then top up with 800mls of cold. Immerse your birds in this solution for between 12 and 24 hours, and you are away. As I say, it is not absolutely necessary, but I guarantee that once you have tried it you won’t go back – it is particularly beneficial to January cock birds.
The Korean butter roast pheasant is a great Sunday roast alternative, if you are looking for something different. I know the apple cider vinegar and crème fraiche are completely off the chart, but trust me -- it works. The Korean fried pheasant is a complete winner and I urge you to try it – it is one of those brilliantly simple recipes that is great to have in your armoury when confronted by people who say they don’t like pheasant… it may have to become a new standard on my street food stands when we are eventually allowed to hold festivals and game fairs once more.
KOREAN FRIED PHEASANT WITH COCONUT RICE AND QUICK PICKLED RADISH
As with much far eastern food, the ingredient list looks dangerously laborious, but try not to be put off. The intensity of the sauce is perfectly off set by the fragrant rice, and cut with the pickled radish, so it’s really worth making the effort with those too. Make the radishes in advance if you like and put the rice on to boil just before you start frying the pheasant.
For the fried pheasant:
• 2 pheasants
• 3 tsp powdered ginger
• 1 tsp black pepper
• 1 tsp salt
• 100g cornflour
• 1 lt. vegetable oil
For the sauce:
• 6 tbsp unrefined caster sugar
• 4 tbsp gochujang paste
• 4 tbsp soy sauce
• 2 tbsp sriracha sauce
• 1 tbsp miso paste
• 6 cloves of garlic, crushed to a paste
• 3 inches fresh ginger, peeled and grated
• 3 tbsp sesame oil
• Juice of 2 limes
For the coconut rice:
• 300g jasmine rice
• 1 tin thick coconut milk
• 400 ml water
• 1 lemongrass stick
• 2 lime leaves
For the quick pickled radishes:
• 12 radish, halved
• 1 tbsp sugar
• 1 tsp salt
• 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
• 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
Handful of finely sliced spring onions and roughly chopped coriander
1. Remove the backbone of the pheasant with a knife or kitchen scissors, flatten the spatchcocked bird out on a board, then cut the whole legs from the breasts.
2. Cut the legs into three pieces, across the bone, and cut each breast into four pieces, across the bone. If you are doing so, now is the time to brine the birds, as described on the previous page.
3. To make the pickled radishes, mix the radish with the salt and sugar, leave for half an hour, then pour over the vinegars. Set aside.
4. To make the rice, simply put all the ingredients in a pan with a pinch of salt, bring to the boil then simmer for 10-12 minutes, until the rice is tender. Remove from the heat, drain, then return the rice to the pan, covering with a lid for 3-4 minutes. Fluff up with a fork before serving. (You can do this in advance then reheat in the microwave if you feel you will be preoccupied by frying the pheasant).
5. To make the sauce, put all the ingredients into a pan, and bring to the boil gently. Allow to simmer for one minute, then remove from the heat.
6. When you are ready to fry the pheasant, heat the oil in a saucepan until it is hot enough for a small piece of bread to begin turning brown in around 30 seconds.
7. Mix the cornflour with the ginger and seasoning and toss the meat in this coating. It is best to do this in batches to ensure the meat is well coated.
8. Fry the meat, again in two or three batches, for around 5-7 minutes, until the meat is cooked through and the coating crisp and golden. Keep each batch warm in the oven set at 120°c.
9. Smother the fried pheasant in the sauce, coating well, and serve alongside the coconut rice and pickled radish. Garnish with the spring onion, coriander and perhaps some sesame seeds should you wish.