Look, I’m not even going to mention the ‘s’ word. It’s not so much the snow (oh, how quickly those January resolutions vanish) I mind, nor the cold, nor the wet, but now, after the first few postcard-y weeks, it’s the absence of colour that’s doing me in. I’m enveloped in a gloomy new palette that runs the gamut from smoke, to mouse, lead pipe and speculum (A lifetime ago when I worked for an interiors magazine, I ordered two litres of emulsion for a shoot in a stylish grey, called ‘speculum’ on the paint chart. I kid you not. Very Dead Ringers). It requires a more subtle level of connoisseurship than I posses to appreciate.
So I retreat to the comfort of my kitchen Crayola box, more specifically to my spice drawer, and its soul-feeding riot of reds, yellows and rich ochres. I had a brace of pheasant that needed using up and combining the bounty from a chilly Scottish moor with the heat of far away spice markets seemed like the perfect two finger salute to slush, ice and grimy, gritty pavements.
This recipe is from The Game Cookbook by Johnny Scott and the entirely life-enhancing, gloom-banishing Clarissa Dickson Wright, only very slightly adapted by me (I had no fresh ginger so used dried, and I added some mustard seeds and saffron, just for the sunniness of it). I’m sure it would be delicious with chicken too.
6 onions, finely chopped
3 tbsps olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tbsps fresh coriander, chopped
6 green cardamom pods
1-2 red chillies, finely chopped
Pinch of saffron
2 pheasants, cut into serving portions
1x400g tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve: basmati rice, yoghurt, more coriander
Warm the oil over a medium-low heat in a large saucepan. Cook the onions gently in the oil until they are golden. Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, mustard seeds, coriander, cardamom, chillies and saffron and cook for a further couple of minutes.
Add the pieces of pheasant to the pan and sauté, turning occasionally for about 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes and vinegar and cook for 30 minutes until the pheasant is well coated with the thickened sauce. If the dish is a little too sharp, add a pinch of sugar. Serve with basmati rice with yoghurt and coriander over the top.