Roasting the pheasant in foil helps to keep the flesh particularly moist and succulent. This recipe is best for very young birds and, if you have a choice and an obliging butcher, you should request the more tender female birds.
2 oven-ready hen pheasants (about 1 1/2 pound each)
4 tbsp sweet butter, softened
8 fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
6 fatty bacon rashers
1 tbsp All purpose flour
3/4 cup game or chicken stock
1 tbsp redcurrant jelly
3 - 4 tbsp port
freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F. Line a large roasting tin with a sheet of strong foil large enough to enclose both of the pheasants. Lightly brush the foil with vegetable oil.
2. Wipe the pheasants with damp kitchen paper and remove any extra fat or skin. Using your fingertips, carefully loosen the skin of the breasts. With a round-bladed knife or small palette knife, spread the butter between the skin and the breast meat of each bird. Tie the legs securely with string then lay the thyme sprigs and a bay leaf over the breast of each bird.
3. Lay bacon rashers over the breasts, place the birds in the foil-lined tin and season with plenty of ground black pepper. Bring together the long ends of the foil, fold over securely to enclose, then twist firmly together to seal.
4. Roast the birds for 20 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 190°C/375°F and cook for a further 40 minutes. Uncover the birds and roast 10 - 15 minutes more or until they are browned and the juices run clear when the thigh of each of the birds is pierced with a skewer. Transfer the birds to a board and leave to stand, covered with clean foil, for 10 minutes before carving.
5. Pour the juices from the foil into the roasting tin and skim off any fat. Sprinkle the flour in to the juices and cook over a medium heat, stirring continuously until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the stock and the redcurrant jelly and bring to the boil. Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly adding more stock if needed, then stir in the port and adjust the seasoning to taste. Strain the sauce and serve at once, with the pheasants.
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