Pheasant with Green Chillies
I had the most wonderful Indian meal a few months back at a small restaurant in London’s Chelsea, called the Painted Heron, and this, or a smarter version of it, was the recipe I came back desperate to have; I’m incredibly grateful to Yogesh Datta for e-mailing it to me with such speed on my request, and for giving me a free hand with it. I find pheasant difficult to get excited about – except when I watch Some Like It Hot, when Marilyn is offered “cold pheasant and champagne” on the boat – that I couldn’t believe it could be transformed like this. I’ve since come across another pheasant curry in a book I bought out of love for its title – Kill It & Grill It by Ted and Shemane Nugent – which convinces me this is definitely the way to go. When I can’t get pheasant, as for example when I wanted to make this to be photographed, I go for guinea fowl, which works just as well; in fact, I couldn’t swear I don’t prefer it. I know four breasts doesn’t sound much, but there is a lot of other food around, and the flavor is intense. However, if I were making a simpler dinner for, say, just four of us with this and some plain basmati rice, I’d keep quantities as they are.
NotesI prefer the thicker, creamier Greek yogurt, but regular plain yogurt will do just fine here.
Serves10 as part of this feast
OccasionFormal Dinner Party
Recipe Coursemain course
Taste and Texturecreamy, hot & spicy, rich, savory
- 4 pheasant or guinea fowl breasts, skinned
- 3 fat cloves garlic
- 1 inch fresh ginger
- 4 long green chillies, plus 1 to decorate
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 4 tablespoons mustard oil
- 2 cups baby spinach leaves
- 1 packed cup mint leaves
- 1 packed cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 cup Greek or plain yogurt
- Pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or ghee
- 1 cup water
Put the garlic, ginger, chillies, lime juice, cumin, garam masala and 1 tablespoon of the mustard oil into a blender or processor and purée to a paste. I find a processor or mini grinder easier; you do have to do a lot of digging down and scraping in a blender canister, but it works all the same.
Slash the pheasant or guinea fowl across each breast on the diagonal about three times, not cutting all the way through, and lay them in a single layer in a shallow dish. Coat with the spicy paste on both sides, cover and marinate for a couple of hours, or preferably overnight in the fridge.
Process the spinach, mint and cilantro leaves. Add the yogurt – I always like Greek or whole-milk for body, but you can use any plain yogurt – the remaining mustard oil and the pinch of salt, and process to make a vibrant green sauce. Spread over the pheasant or guinea fowl breasts as before and leave again for an hour, or longer if you like.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, and then shake off the excess yogurty marinade from the pheasant or guinea fowl (reserving the marinade). Cook the breasts gently for about 5 minutes a side. Don’t have the heat too high or the yogurt will stick and burn.
Add the cup water to the leftover marinade and stir into a cohesive sauce before tipping into the pan over the cooking poultry. Cook, gently as before, for another 5 minutes a side or until cooked through.
Take the breasts out of the pan to carve them on the diagonal into slices, put them on to a serving dish and pour over the sauce. Deseed the remaining chilli and cut into long, thin strips to strew over the top.
2004 Nigella Lawson