Before Xmas, I was sat on the sofa, totally worn out from another evening of painting, or possibly sanding. Still, the physical exhaustion feels kind of good. It’s that thoughtless ache laced with satisfaction you get when you’ve achieved something.
Sitting there with a steaming plate of curry and rice on my lap, I felt the deep satisfaction that comes from knowing you’re about to eat a huge tasty meal, and that you deserve that meal. And pudding. As I lift the first forkful to my mouth, I feel almost virtuous.
This pheasant curry is the ideal meal for someone who is out of the house twelve hours a day, and then tries to sand and paint rooms in the evening. You can construct it over successive evenings and it’ll taste better because of it.
It’s in situations like this that dishes like curry or tagine really come into their own. For the best result, they need some time for flavours to combine, meat to tenderise and spices in penetrate deep into the flesh.
This is even more the case with game as it doesn’t have the fat to keep it moist that lamb does. And the reward you get is worth the wait. This particular dish, although I have substituted pheasant for chicken, and left out most of the butter, is a classic case in point. And also happens to be perfect if you’re busy doing other things.
That said, it does require a little forward planning. I made it over three nights. Marinating took as long as mixing the marinade, jointing the bird and smearing it with the gloopy spice laced yogurt. Cooking it the first time and making the sauce took about 20 minutes work, and an hour or so of leaving to simmer.
Then all that was left was to reheat and serve with rice, by which time I had got three coats of paint on the walls.
I’m not claiming that this is in any way an authentic and original South Asian dish. It has been modified, tweaked and been subject to the powerful pull of “what’s in the fridge”.
Of course, you don’t have to cook it over three days. I’ve done the entire thing in an evening, marinating for only two hours, and it was still very tasty.
1 pheasant – jointed and skinned
2 tblsp yoghurt
1 tsp sea salt
2 tblsp garam masala
1 tsp hot chilli powder
2 tsp ground coriander
1 lump of ginger – grated
2 cloves of garlic – crushed
Juice of half a lemon
A splash of oil
1 onion – finely chopped
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
1 tsp (ish) dried chilli
1 tin chopped tomatoes
To finish off
A thick slice of butter
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tblsp tomato purée
2 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 tsp runny honey
150 ml (ish) yoghurt
Juice of half a lemon
Mix together the marinade and rub it over the pheasant (or chicken) pieces until every crevice is filled. Lave it covered in the fridge for as long as you can (24 hours is best).
Make the sauce by frying the onions until they’re turning translucent. Add the garlic, chilli and cloves and cook for about a minute more. Then chuck in the tomatoes and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Pour into a jug and set aside.
Fry the butter over a gentle heat, and when melted, add the ground cumin and stir. Add the tomato sauce, and then the rest of the ingredients, stirring it all together into a thick sauce.
Now add the pheasant with it’s marinade, stir and simmer gently for another 30-45 minutes or so. Keep the heat gentle and you can leave it bubbling slowly away for a while.
I like to fridge for another 24 hours at this point before reheating it and eating it with rice. It definitely improves the flavour, making the dish more coherent. But you could just as easily serve it straight away.