Sweet-Meats

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It’s fascinating, the things people leave in books. I volunteered at Oxfam Books for a couple of months, and in that time amassed a folder (which I still have, somewhere) full of various items found between the pages of donations. I dog-ear, personally, having little respect for the ‘book’ as a totemic object, so the breadth of things used as bookmarks surprised me. Flyers and train tickets, yes, lots of them, but also very personal pieces, postcards, letters, photographs, and so on. Are these the things nearest to hand in the urgency of bookmarking, or are they saved for that purpose, a little memento kept always close by?

Inserts in practical non-fiction (gardening and cookery especially) tend towards the useful. For every copy of Mrs Beeton with all the colour plates cut out there’s an old Delia bristling with newspaper clippings, supermarket recipe pamphlets, old shopping lists … and maybe, if you’re lucky, some original recipes, carefully recorded in neat pencil. I found this one between the pages of an American book on game cookery, from 1945; some newspaper pieces within (on cooking with coon and reindeer) are of a similar vintage – a column on the back of one of them railing against socialism – so I assume this recipe is too. More research, as they say, is needed.

So. The recipe – which, as you can see, is a list of ingredients with no method or yield given – is untitled, but looks, from the sugar, the fruit, the adding of alcohol to each jar, like a recipe for mincemeat, of the old English and it seems the American kind which actually contains meat. (I was always dubious about the existence of such a thing, as ‘meat’ in some contexts [sweetmeat] just means ‘food’, and it seemed to go hand-in-hand with the preposterous assertion that spices were used to mask rotten meat, but it seems I was wrong.) When I shared the ‘recipe’ on Twitter, Dan Lepard came to the same conclusion, and proffered the helpful fact that Wellington is a variety of cooking apple, similar to our Bramley.

The final piece of the puzzle came from the fine Penguin Handbook The American Heritage Cookbook, dating from the 60s but collating rather older dishes, which features a recipe for Sunnyside Mincemeat Pie, with a strikingly similar list of ingredients – only beef instead of venison. I had assumed that a meat-containing mincemeat, unlike the usual British variety, must require cooking prior to jarring, and here was confirmation! I had a method – and my neighbour was giving away bags of windfall Bramleys. Isn’t it nice when things work out?

VENISON MINCEMEAT

With apologies to the original cook, I have streamlined the amounts somewhat in converting to metric. That half an ounce of venison might have seemed very important – or maybe it’s just what she happened to have. Either way, I’ve kept things simpler. I’ve also gone with the original mix of dates and prunes, because I like prunes. Do as you like – dried cherries are nice.

You can see that the original recipe called for meat and fat to be marinated, but not in what; I’ve skipped this altogether. Unless it means heavily brined (possible), I can’t see that you’d get much of the marinade through the blanket of fruit and spice.

DISCLAIMER: This involves cooking meat in what seems like an insufficiency of salt or acid and leaving it in the fridge for a month. Make sure you cook it thoroughly when you make it into pies. If I get botulism, I’ll let you know.

Makes 3 1l jars, which is far too much mincemeat.

500g venison, minced

200g suet, shredded (preferably deer, but that’s quite hard to get hold of. I used sheep, but beef will do)

1.25kg cooking apples, chopped

500g light muscovado sugar

500g dates, chopped

500g prunes, chopped

300ml nice apple juice

150 mixed candied peel, chopped

.25 t ground cloves

.25 t ground mace

.25 t ground ginger

.5 t ground nutmeg

2 t salt

1 t ground cinnamon

some booze (I don’t drink rum, so I used bramble whisky)

Put everything except the booze in a big pan, and bring to a slight simmer. Leave it there with a lid on for two hours, stirring occasionally, then pack into sterilised jars, adding a couple of tablespoons of booze to each jar. Put in the fridge and leave for a month.

Clammy Cells

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I’m sure I say this every year, but autumn really is an extraordinary time for British food. We spend the height of summer eating greenhouse tomatoes and endless gluts of courgette, wishing we were south of the thick black coffee line drinking something cold and pale in a cafe by the sea; it’s a season that we are not fully equipped to deal with, and so we spend it semi-conscious, drifting between shore and field in a sort of gentle fever dream, punctuated by ice-cream. Autumn, on the other hand, is the time to wake up. The hedges are making good on the promise of the early blackberries, with damsons, crabapples and soon sloes weighing down the spindly branches; country roads are once again teeming with semi-wild game birds, running idiotically between their Scylla and Charybdis of front wheel and gun. On the days after the first shoots, the flattened corpses of young partridge carpet the roads.

At least partridge tastes quite nice. The strange situation with pheasant is that these birds are bred in protected environments (often to the detriment of other, perhaps more native creatures), then released into the wild to be shot at, in such numbers that ‘hunters’ give them away for free; no-one wants to eat as much pheasant as can be killed, because, finally, it’s just not very interesting. A sort of dark white meat which dries out easily, it has none of the bloody excitement of a duck or pigeon, it’s too big to tear apart with your hands … to make matters worse, people often don’t prepare them properly, so the legs are full of tough sinews which must be picked laboriously from the meat. All in all, a waste of everybody’s time. If you do get given one, best to brine it in salty tea and then joint it so you can roast the legs slowly, the breasts quickly. Like all game birds, it goes nicely with a jelly or compote of appropriate fruits.

The chickenish paleness of their flesh is, I assume, due to both their early captivity and to their lifelong habit of walking everywhere, even out of the way of oncoming cars; it is certainly shared by the similarly-raised partridge, though the meat of these latter birds is somewhat finer, capable, I’m sure, of a rewarding blush when carefully and delicately cooked; I like to brown them in hot oil and then pickle them. This is a treatment native to Andalusia, but it seems appropriate for an English autumn, and as a recipe it is about as simple as that – just make up a vinegary brine, flavoured appropriately, and pour it, hot, over the browned birds. You don’t need to worry too much about acidity and salinity unless you intend to put them up in a barrel for the winter, in which case you are on your own; fermentation is one thing, but the sterile preservation of protein is fraught with danger. Just put them in the fridge and eat over a few days, and no-one will get botulism.

If you roast or stew your partridges, remember that, as with all pale, wild flesh, they will need a good helping of fat, having very little of their own, either in layers or running through the meat. It’s traditional to roast such birds covered with little strips of streaky bacon, which the cook can then silently eat while preparing the accompaniments; another way is to wrap them in prosciutto or similar and pack them tightly into a casserole for pot-roasting. I once cooked this for Julian Assange, oddly, though I don’t know if he liked it. He certainly never came back. I don’t know if partridges traditionally hide in pear trees because they are themselves pleasingly pear-shaped, or even if they do so at all, but they certainly go nicely with pear, perhaps pickled; or possibly it is just the pleasure of the association. Either way, worth a try.

So much for these sort-of game birds. My own personal favourite is the pigeon, as I think I’ve said before, but as they are easily availably year-round, they don’t carry the seasonal thrill of, say, a nice mallard (smaller and neater than the fat, farmed Gressingham duck), which is what I happen to have in my fridge right now, next to the pot of pickled partridge. Duck is perfect with the sweet tartness of the season, the hedgerow fruits, the heavy, honeyed flavours; there are so many options that I’m not quite sure, having briefly considered Pekinese and Venetian treatments, what I should do with it. Duck and damsons sounds nice, but if you have any suggestions, I would be glad to hear them.

Inglorious Bustards

There is no wilderness in Britain. The landscape which today forms the battleground between conservationist and farmer, developer and gentry, is only the latest expression of the work of millennia, to shape and subjugate wildness into something more amenable to humanity. The land is manmade. Once a vast forest covered the country, almost to the peaks of the uplands; the Broads and the Fens were water; the Suffolk coast was heath and bosky wood. The nature which inhabits these industrial landscapes is that which, broadly, we allow to exist – everything dangerous is long-gone, and everything not useful has retreated significantly, adapted itself around human settlement. Hares, snails, pigeons, rabbits, deer, introduced by waves of invaders and migrants as sources of food or entertainment, have all become part of the British ecosystem. Nothing is natural, nothing is wild; a muntjac eats the brambles in my back garden. The pig farms of Blythburgh have as much right to the land as Folkestone Warren.

Any radical conservation (if you’ll excuse the phrase), that is to say, any attempt to rebirth a truly wild British landscape, would require, ironically, a huge intervention, in the form of a vast holocaust. A near-total annihilation of the human population, not to mention of dogs, cats, cattle, sheep, pigs, alpacas, horses, goats, elephants, wallabies, rheas, hares and so on, a final eradication of the mark of so-called civilisation from the map, would be followed by the reintroduction of wolves and of bears; the regular cull that our semi-wild deer population receives would be carried out more naturally. There are those who advocate for this, if not in such extreme terms – it is the logical conclusion of a certain strand of conservationism, but most people tread a more compromised path.

To return to total wildness, let’s say, is impossible or undesirable or both – what then? If you agree that we have some responsibility towards the rest of nature, to try and ensure we do as little harm as we can – well, it seems arbitrary to choose now or rather a rose-tinted recent past as the moment to conserve, but what else to do? Muddle along, I suppose. Even if we had the inclination to resurrect ecosystems past, we don’t have the ability or the knowledge. The culture in a pot of naturally fermented kimchi has still not been successfully modelled – imagine the complexity of the wild wood! So we tend to our garden, we manage and conserve, we farm the things we think are farmed, we hunt and forage the wild ones – and this, really, is the problem. Most of them are not wild.

The humane farming of animals for meat has taken huge strides in recent years. A loose coalition of chefs, farmers and consumers has made a huge positive change to animal welfare and to its importance in public discourse; everyone knows to at least pay lip service to happy hens, blissful cows, quietly ecstatic pigs. If there is still some distance to go, there is at least a general recognition that, quite apart from ethical issues, meat tastes better when it has spent its life outside, eaten a varied diet, had a gentle death. The quality of good meat in Britain now is really quite astonishing, and cooks both professional and amateur are right to insist on the good stuff; it is more expensive, but so it should be; it takes space and time to farm well, and these things cost money.

On the other hand, we have game. I have written a few times before about rabbit, and nothing’s changed since then; it is still, alongside pigeon, plentiful and generally healthy in its large feral populations, shot at by farmers as pest control. It is, I think, right to eat it for as long as these conditions attain. Although farmed in some places, the various types of deer which roam Britain are in a broadly similar situation – in the absence of their apex predators, they are regularly culled. I don’t especially like venison and, still treated as a meat of kings, it is pretty expensive, but I don’t have a problem with it; eat away!

Game birds (pigeon excepted) on the other hand, are very different. Most, like the rabbit, were introduced to be kept as a semi-wild food source, though lacking the rabbit’s capacity to breed, adaptability to various environments, and resilience to even horrific biological warfare, they need keeping, breeding and rearing as chicks, their environment heavily managed to the detriment of other species – all so they can be shot at. Are they wild or farmed? The huge pens called ‘grouse moors’ are kept solely for the benefit of these creatures. Foxes and stoats, which prey on them, are trapped and killed, as are hares, which can carry parasites harmful to grouse; the surface of the moor is burnt away. All of this, I think, is legal, but there are also many recorded instances of birds of prey trapped or poisoned, which is not. Higher ground is drained, to the detriment of lowland towns.

This is farming, free-range farming on a wastefully gigantic scale – but without the payoff. Where cows are herded into abattoirs one-by-one, unaware of the imminent blow of the bolt-gun, calmly led to euthanasia, semi-tame grouse and partridge and pheasants are released, hounded and flung into the air to be shot at, winged, dispatched, shoved into ‘the bag’. No wild meat should require such intervention; no farmed animal deserves such a death. Driven grouse shooting gives us the very worst of each world. The reason it is allowed to continue, of course, is that it is a hobby of the very rich, for whom nature is not red in tooth and claw but just another playground under their petulant command. It creates jobs, they cry, it is economically necessary – stop buying grouse, that cruelly half-farmed highland chicken, and it won’t be. Remember that when you cook with grouse, when you eat it, you are cooking not wild untrammelled nature but the discarded carrion of an aristocrat’s game.

 

Hop, Spring

 

Another rabbit recipe, yes, but a really very different one. It used to be normal to give a lot more consideration to the age of the animal you were cooking with – a spring chicken needed a different approach than a boiling fowl; lamb, hogget, mutton, all required various strengths and lengths of marinade and cooking. Although a few luxury youths remain (veal, suckling pig, the yearly argument that is spring lamb) and some of the older animals are making a resurgence, by and large slaughtering age has become standardised somewhere at the lower limits of adulthood, or the minimum required to get a good return on the farmer’s investment. This is a shame.

Apart from any ethical argument over the accelerated growth and early deaths of industrially farmed animals, there is a great variety of cooking that comes from the use of different ages of meat, and the techniques needed to deal with them – coq au vin, for example, is pointless with a young chicken, the long cooking required for the dark, glossy sauce being badly suited to tender white meat. The whole rich tradition, in fact, of stews, daubes, ragus, etceteras, would probably not exist without the need to consume older animals – why spend hours braising an oxtail when you could roast a young, dripping slab of calf?
Curiously, a similar standardisation seems to have happened with game. Although old cookbooks are full of advice for how to treat an old rabbit, a young one, a new mother (feed it to the dogs, apparently) the ones you usually get from butchers are generally of a similar size and condition, and need fairly careful treatment, along the lines I set out before. Once in a while, though, if you live in the countryside, or hate your children’s pets, you might get your hands on some younger ones. If you do, I suggest you do the following –

RABBIT, BACON, SPRING VEGETABLES
For 2
1 young rabbit
A small handful of smoked bacon lardons
A bunch of asparagus
About 500 grams of fresh peas, in their pods
3 banana shallots
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp Dijon mustard
A small glass of white wine
Small handful of parsley
Zest of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
Since you’re unlikely to get a baby from the butcher, we’re going to start at the beginning this time. First thank whoever gave you the rabbit. Remember he has a gun. Take the rabbit, and with a small, very sharp knife, make a slit between one of its hamstrings and the muscle, and slide the other foot through this, making a handy loop. Use this to hang it over something (preferably outside). Cut just under the breastbone, and make a slit down the belly to the groin. Pull out all the bits, which will smell horrendous, keeping the liver and kidneys aside if you want them. (The gutting process, pleasingly, is known as ‘paunching’.) Cut two more slits from the groin, down (or rather up, given how he’s hanging) the inside of the legs to the ankle; you’ll find, with a combination of pulling and gentle scraping, that you can undress him down to the feet; cut the skin round here, leaving the furry slippers on, then pull the skin down over his head and repeat at the other end. (You won’t need the head for this recipe – I’m not a monster. Just hack it off and chuck it away.) Right. Give the carcass a good wash, and bring inside. (Young rabbits shouldn’t need hanging.) OR acquire a baby rabbit from a rural game dealer.
First, with a cleaver or mallet-and-knife arrangement, lop of the still-furry feet. Splay the rabbit out on its front, and dislocate the back legs – hold the body down, and grab each leg in turn, giving it a sharp twist towards you – then use your small sharp knife to cut round the hip joint, separating each leg from the body. Put them to one side, then turn the rabbit round so the front legs are towards you. These are easy to take off – get a good grip under the shoulder blade, where the skin is quite loose, and slice round and under. Finally, with your lopping tool(s), trim the saddle at each end. Keep the ribcage for stock if you’re that kind of person. Or just ask your rural game dealer for a jointed baby rabbit. Or just use chicken, for that matter.
Nearly there. Trim the asparagus and pod the peas, and put the stalk-ends and pods in a saucepan. Add one of the shallots, halved, and one of the cloves of garlic, lightly squished. Cover with water, bring to a simmer, and leave to get on while you start the cooking proper.
In a sauté pan big enough to fit the complete dish (sorry if you’ve got this far and don’t have one), gently heat the lardons – the aim is to render a decent amount of fat from them before they brown. Once you’re happy with this state of affairs, remove them from the pan, whack up the heat, and brown the rabbit (or chicken, if you insist) pieces in batches, giving them a merry salting as you go. Put these with the bacon and turn the heat back down.
Finely slice the remaining shallots and garlic and sweat these (you might need a bit more fat or oil) until nicely softened and starting to brown, putting the bacon back in towards the end of this process. Add the mustard, cook for a minute, turn up the heat, add the wine, let it reduce to almost nothing.
Arrange the rabbit pieces nicely on top (they’d better fit) and add a couple of ladles of that veg stock, which should be ready by now – enough to not-quite-cover the rabbit, bring to the boil, simmer for twenty minutes. Meanwhile, slice the asparagus into pea-ish sized bits. When the twenty minutes are up, add the peas and asparagus, cover with a lid and simmer for ten minutes more. Finely chop the parsley with the lemon and stir in. A swirl of cream would be appropriate, and some extra mustard is a good idea.

Rabbit, Rabbit

photo Apologies for the rather long break (I’m sure you’ve all been on tenterhooks). I’ve just started a new job and have been rather busy testing dishes, writing menus, and pickling lots of things, so while I’ve had plenty of new recipes to share, I haven’t had the time to write anything about them. Even if I did, I’m not sure a lot of them would translate that well into the home-cooking format – like a lot of professional recipes they are broadly split between “take a lot of expensive and hard-to-source-ingredients and put them on a plate” and “subject cheap ingredients to a three-day process of dismemberment”. Still, I feel I’ve got to write about something, and putting things on a plate wouldn’t be very interesting, so dismemberment it is. This recipe uses one of my very favourite meats, and is one I’ve been working on – I don’t like to say refining, but certainly improving – for the last few years. Despite the increasing fashionability of game, rabbit is still pretty cheap to buy, and is a plentiful and guilt-free meat, the things being a pest in most of the country. Like most wild meat, though, it does need careful cooking, and can be a stringy and unpleasant eating experience if handled badly. This recipe is designed to minimise that possibility. People seem to treat the cooking of game as if it’s some great mystery, requiring an almost magical touch in the kitchen; basically, though, the meat is both hard-working – think how much a rabbit runs in its short life – and lean, and requires a healthy dose of moisture and fat to help it along. In this, as in so much, pigs are your friend. So. This is a lengthy process, but none of it is particularly hands-on, and is, I think, worth it. (I would say that though). To shorten things a little I’ve assumed that you’ll get the rabbit jointed, although as this is a satisfying procedure in its own right, I do suggest you give it a go sometime.

RABBIT RAGOUT

Happily serves four.

DAY ONE

All this can be done some time in advance.

TROTTER JELLY

3 pig feet (you’re not using the flesh for this, so don’t worry about shaving them)

2 onions

2 sticks of celery

2 fat carrots 2 leeks

1 head of garlic

A few cloves, peppercorns & juniper berries

Put the feet in a large pan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Blanch for about 15 minutes, to drive off some of the scum. I’ve skipped this step before and ended up with a pan of sickly green, so please do it. Chop the veg into chunks, washing the leeks, and halve the garlic along its tummy. Drain the feet, rinse off any clinging scum, then put all in the pan and cover with fresh water. Bring to a bright simmer, and leave there for at least three hours, maybe more, until the trotters have completely collapsed, with bones poking all over the place. Drain the stock into jars or tubs, and discard the solids somewhere that won’t attract rats. Leave to cool, then refrigerate.

BRINE

300g fine sea salt (not table salt; it’s got stuff added to it)

200g granulated sugar

2 cloves of garlic, lightly squashed

A few cloves, juniper berries and peppercorns

Put everything in a pan, cover with two litres of water, and heat gently, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Turn up the heat and boil for a couple of minutes. Leave to cool, then refrigerate this too.

DAY TWO 2 wild rabbits, jointed

The brine

Put the rabbits in the brine, or the brine on the rabbit. Weigh down with a plate or something, and put in the fridge.

DAY THREE RABBIT Brined rabbit (you don’t need the saddles for this; they are much more tender and quick to cook than the legs, so save them for something else)

1 onion

1 fat carrot

1 stick of celery

1 leek

trotter jelly

chicken stock (if you have some)

Again, chunk the veg, and use them to make a rabbit bed in a suitable pan. Drain the rabbit, and rinse under running water for a good few minutes, then arrange the joints on their bed. Add enough trotter jelly to cover the rabbit once melted; it might need a top-up with stock or water. Cover and braise gently for a couple of hours, until the meat starts to fall off the bone.

SAUCE

1 large onion, finely diced

1 carrot, finely diced

1 stick of celery, finely diced

1 lemon, zest only

2 sprigs of thyme, stripped

2 tblspn tomato puree 100ml full-fat milk

50ml white balsamic or other nice vinegar

Extra virgin olive oil

Sweat the vegetables in a good slosh of oil until very soft, then stir in the zest and thyme leaves and cook for a minute until fragrant. Add the puree, increase the heat, and fry for a minute or two. Turn down again, add the milk, and let it bubble away to nothing, then do the same with the vinegar.

TO FINISH

rabbit sauce

a handful of chopped parsley Shred the rabbit meat of the bones and add to the sauce, then strain in enough of the braising liquid to just cover. Simmer until everyone seems happy together, then serve with something bright and green, and polenta or pasta.

Stuffed

Stuffed Pheasant

Don’t get me wrong, I love hands-on, elbows-on-the-table, sauce-on-the-face eating – wings, ribs, mussels, snails, whole crab, anything that goes well with lots of friends and napkins and beer – but it’s nice occasionally to have something a bit more, well, refined. Something where the hard work, the nuts and bolts and bones, is got out of the way long before dinner, and all you have to do at the table is sit and eat. This is especially true, I think, over Christmas, when you’ve got quite enough to eat without making it any harder for yourself, and when the tradition of carving at the table leads to unwanted scrutiny of your knives and skills.

 

Carving a bird isn’t the hardest of tasks, but there is something a bit silly about the whole affair; taking off the breasts before you can slice them, utensils wrestling with tasks better suited to hands, and then the whole question of stuffing. If you actually stuff the bird with it, it plays havoc with the cooking time, and of course you have to get it out again; if you don’t, well then it isn’t really stuffing, is it? Drastic as it may seem, de-boning the whole bird is really the best solution to all of these problems. To carve, you simply slice across, and the flesh becomes, really, a wrap for the stuffing, which after all is usually the best bit.

 

Against this, of course, is the work of actually boning the damn thing. Well, you could always ask your butcher to do it (I’d give him a little advance notice, though). Or you could (as I did) learn how to do it from this excellent video. It isn’t that hard, although it certainly isn’t quite as easy as he makes it look. Or, of course, you might already know how to do it! It’s incredibly satisfying, anyway. Here’s what I did with mine.

 

PHEASANT WITH BLACK PUDDING AND CITRUS STUFFING

serves 2, festively, or more in leaner times.

STAGE 1

1 pheasant, fully boned (keep the bones)

1 leek

1 fat carrot

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

bay leaves

peppercorns

juniper berries

Roast the pheasant carcass in a hot oven, then make a stock with it and the rest of the ingredients, covered with water. It’ll need a good 2-3 hours of simmering. You could pop the pheasant in brine overnight, too.

STAGE 2

1 rasher of streaky bacon, finely chopped

1 small onion, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

2 good chunks of black pudding (about 100-150g)

a small handful of parsley, chopped

a small handful of dried breadcrumbs

1/2 tsp allspice

a grating of nutmeg

1 tbspn chopped candied citrus peel

1 small egg

lard, salt and pepper

Sweat the bacon, onion and garlic in a dollop of lard until soft and clear. Crumble in the black pudding, then stir through the rest of the ingredients. Season. When cooled slightly, beat the egg lightly and mix that in too.

STAGE 3

the pheasant

the stuffing

the stock

1 leek, sliced into chunks and washed

1 carrot, peeled and sliced into chunks

1 onion, peeled and sliced into chunks

5 rashers of streaky bacon

another onion, finely diced

1 tbspn flour

a little mustard, redcurrant jelly, and/or booze, as you will

lard, salt and pepper

string

Get the oven to Gas Mark 4/180C/350F. Lay your pheasant, skin side down, on a board or counter. If not brined, season enthusiastically. Rearrange any ragged bits of meat so there’s a good, even layer, then spoon over the stuffing. Spread it out, leaving a slight border, and work some right down into his trousers. When happy with your work, begin the reconstructive surgery. Fold over one side into the middle, and then the other, overlapping the skin slightly. Turn over onto the seam, cross the legs at a jaunty angle, and tie, again as shown here; finally, lay the rashers of bacon across the breast, then get his bed ready.

Melt a little lard in an appropriately sized (ie small) roasting tin, then toss in the vegetable chunks, making sure they get a good coating. Place your handsome pheasant sausage in the middle of this, then roast in the oven for about 45 minutes. As ever, you’re after clear juices and crispy bacon. Remove from the oven, remove the bacon, and wrap the bird up to rest. While this happens, make the gravy.

Sweat the onion in a little more lard, then stir in the flour, cook until it smells vaguely of biscuits, and add whichever of mustard, jelly and booze you see fit (I used all three). Gradually add the pheasant stock, stirring slightly manically, and simmer until thickened nicely. How much stock, and how much further liquid you add, depends on how you like your gravy. Pour in the vegetables and juices from the roasting tray too, and simmer some more. Strain into a jug.

Serve, sliced thickly, with the gravy, greens, perhaps tossed with hazelnuts and mustard dressing, and some sort of potato. As for the bacon, you could chop it and add to the greens, or just have as a treat on the side. Or eat it, while making the gravy, and pretend it never existed.