First bag a game bird ... how to make a deca­dent meal fit for a king-to-be

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Jan Moir

PHEAS­ANT Crum­ble Pie? Pheas­ant. Crum­ble. Pie. Surely it’s ei­ther a crum­ble or a pie, but it can’t be both?

Who am I to ar­gue with the din­ing habits of Prince Charles, the birth­day boy who an­nounced this week that this was his favourite dish of all time?

The recipe he favours, from mar­vel­lous head chef John Wil­liams at the Ritz, in­volves poach­ing a pheas­ant — but hold it right there, peo­ple. I mean poach in wa­ter with ju­niper berries and veg­eta­bles, not poach by steal­ing. It also in­volves a shock­ing amount of but­ter, which makes me fear for dear Charles’s ar­ter­ies.

The method seems straight­for­ward enough and is de­light­fully old fash­ioned, some­thing you might find in Mrs Bee­ton.

Af­ter poach­ing, you cool and shred the pheas­ant meat (breasts only), strain and re­duce the stock, then spike it with sherry. Af­ter mak­ing a roux with flour and but­ter, you use the stock to make a thick white sauce. Then you mix it all to­gether, top with bread­crumbs, cheese and ba­con be­fore bak­ing in the oven. It sounds di­vine! Not hav­ing the Ritz kitchens, a palace or a per­sonal chef at my dis­posal, I de­cide to make it my­self. Af­ter all, what could pos­si­bly go wrong? So I or­der a pheas­ant from C Lidgate, the pres­ti­gious West Lon­don butch­ers beloved of roy­als and Richard Bran­son, but don’t let that put you off. It comes from Nor­folk although not the San­dring­ham Es­tate, but that is close enough for me. I poach it as in­structed, then boil the stock to re­duce. Nei­ther Mr Wil­liams nor Prince Charles men­tion the scum that gathers on the sur­face, as is usual when boil­ing fowl. Per­haps you just can’t have that word in a royal recipe? I skim my scum sur­rep­ti­tiously. The bread­crumbs are an out­ra­geous ex­trav­a­gance, fried in 170g of but­ter, al­most three-quar­ters of a pack. Even af­ter dry­ing them, they are still a mound of en­gorged but­ter bombs. To in­ten­sify the deca­dence, parme­san cheese and crispy ba­con are added, be­fore the dish is baked in the oven.

So what does it taste like? Re­ally rather de­li­cious, although it is in­cred­i­bly rich. Savoury, sooth­ing and sur­pris­ingly eco­nom­i­cal, it is ex­actly the kind of com­fort food one might ex­pect the Prince of Wales to adore. White meat only and lash­ings of dairy, with a crispy top­ping and a but­tery over­load all add up to a deca­dent sup­per fit for a king-to-be.

It is retro nurs­ery food given a touch of lux­ury — the kind of food that has fu­elled the Monar­chy for hun­dreds of years.

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