Pheasant with pancetta and prunes and a landscape gangsta

Pheasant with pancetta and prunes

A hunter friend presented us with a brace of pheasants and we invited him to eat them with us. He seized the opportunity to lecture Luc, at length and rather bossily I thought, on the fact that he’d cleared away too much of the undergrowth amongst the pine trees, causing the animals to flee. If they have fled, they haven’t gone very far; I found a couple of deer in the tack room last night, helping themselves to the horses’ grain.

Round and round and round again

France has the dubious honour of having the most roundabouts in the world. (And also the most famous roundabout in the world: The Arc de Triomphe in Paris.) With a total of 42,986 roundabouts (and counting), France also ranks first when it comes to number of roundabouts per capita. My apologies for sounding as though I swallowed a copy of ‘Boring Stats for Nerds’.

Roundabouts were ‘imported’ from the UK in the ’70s, because intersections were becoming too dangerous; French drivers simply didn’t stop. Although they have improved things, danger-wise, it’s not unheard at all of to see tyre marks going right through the middle. Driving around the outskirts of Bordeaux this weekend, I was suddenly struck by just how many there were; we went around a total of 16, in under six kilometres. Unfortunately my inner ear stayed in roundabout mode and I spent the afternoon veering to the right, like a haggis on flat ground.

A Landscape Gangsta and inappropriate comedy

In other news, Java has adopted full-on Landscape Gangster mode (like the insatiable roundabout builders). We have more holes in the garden than I’ve ever seen, which isn’t ideal when you’re as prone to spraining your ankle as me. I think the sodden ground has just proved too irresistible for her. I spotted Luc having an apparently amusing and in-depth chat with a post box the other day. On further inspection, I discovered he was actually talking to a security guard who was sitting beside the post box. But for a moment, from where I was standing it looked for all the world like he was in the midst of a psychotic break.

We just got back from the funeral of a friend from our town. For some reason Luc used his recently-installed Waze navigation app, to get us to the church. That is, our church in our actual town; it’s still not clear why the app was needed… Anyway, in the middle of the service, during a hush (of course), it suddenly blurted out: ‘FAITES DEMI-TOUR DES QUE POSSIBLE’ (do a u-turn as soon as possible). And this, on repeat until we were able to get it under control. Getting it under control was no mean feat as I was suffering from that shame-making, dignity-stripping, sweaty, uncontrollable silent laughter that ill-timed comedy moments cause. A poignant message for a sad afternoon nonetheless, I thought.

Recipe for pheasant with pancetta and prunes (serves 4)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 300g thickly sliced pancetta, cut into strips
  • 2 pheasants, gutted
  • Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • 400ml white wine
  • 200g prunes
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place a casserole dish ( large enough to take both pheasants) over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the onions, garlic, and thyme and bay leaves and cook for about five minutes until the onions are soft and slightly golden. Add the bacon and fry for a further five minutes until golden. Add the pheasants, season and then cook for a couple of minutes, turning often, until well browned on all sides. Add the white wine and then the prunes, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook in the oven for about an hour. I think this is best served with a potato and butternut squash purée and green peas.


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