Nigel Slater’s recipes for fig and red onion tarts and roast pheasant with apples and cider | Food

We are on the very coronary heart of autumn now, virtually time for the forged iron soup pot to come back down from the shelf. There are seasonal treats, too – sport birds and chestnuts, glowing red apples and figs as purple and tender as a bruise.

This week I made a dinner – a celebration of kinds – of pot roast pheasant and scarlet apples, the chook carved none too professionally, served with a soupy sauce of cider, bacon and sage.

It’s good, however virtually higher is the soup we make from the carcass the subsequent day, the meat stripped from the bones and simmered with onion, carrots and celery, and a bunch of thyme and bay. We threw in a handful of small brown lentils that turned the soup right into a meal.

The figs, virtually not possible to withstand, had been baked in crumbly pastry instances with onions and crème fraîche. We baked them earlier than the pheasant went in and ate them heat, as you would possibly a quiche Lorraine, earlier than the chook. The 2 that had been left labored as a lunchbox deal with for the next day.

Fig and red onion tarts

There’s something notably satisfying about having a small pastry all to oneself. The pastry is best behaved for being rested within the fridge for 20 minutes earlier than getting used to line the tart tins, and much less more likely to shrink throughout baking. Take care to not spill the filling over the rim of the tarts as they are going to keep on with the tins. Makes 6

butter 100g
plain flour 200g
egg yolk 1
water slightly

For the filling:
red onions 2 giant (or 3 medium)
butter 40g
figs 200g
crème fraîche 200m
egg yolk 1

You have to 6 loose-bottomed tartlet tins about 8cm broad and 3cm deep.

Make the pastry: put the flour right into a meals processor, add the butter and course of for a minute or so till you may have coarse crumbs. Add the egg yolk and sufficient water to carry to a agency rollable dough. (I begin with 1 tbsp and add a couple of extra drops till I’ve a manageable dough.)

Take away the dough from the machine, knead very briefly on a floured board, then pat it right into a spherical, wrap in kitchen paper and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Set the oven at 180C/gasoline mark 4. Peel the onions, slice them thinly into rounds, then allow them to cook dinner within the butter over a reasonable warmth, till very smooth. Stir them every now and then – they are going to most likely take an excellent 20 minutes. Give them time to turn out to be shiny and barely jammy. Take away them from the warmth. Chop the figs into small items, then stir into the onions with the crème fraîche. Beat the egg yolk with a fork then stir into the combination and season flippantly with salt and pepper.

Calmly butter the tart tins and place them on a baking sheet. Roll the pastry out thinly and minimize 6 discs roughly 15cm in diameter. Use the discs to fill the tart tins, pushing the pastry gently into the corners. Place a chunk of paper in every tart case alongside with baking beans to forestall the pastry slipping or rising. Bake for 20 minutes, then take away the tray of tart instances from the oven, raise out the paper and beans, then return the instances to the oven for 3 or 4 minutes till dry to the contact.

It’s price rigorously loosening the tart instances of their tins so they’re simpler to take away as soon as stuffed and baked. Stir the filling, then spoon into the tarts. Bake for an additional 30-35 minutes, take away them from the oven and permit to relaxation for 10 minutes earlier than serving.

Roast pheasant with apples and cider

‘Served with a soupy sauce of cider, bacon and sage’: roast pheasant with apples and cider.
‘Served with a soupy sauce of cider, bacon and sage’: roast pheasant with apples and cider. {Photograph}: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

I discover even the plumpest pheasant feeds simply 2 individuals, however they turn out to be good worth once you use the bones for soup. The bacon – or pancetta in the event you choose – is there not solely for flavour however for its fats, which pheasants are likely to lack. Test the birds’ progress within the oven often, however I discover erring on the aspect of under-rather an over-cooking offers a juicier outcome. Serves 2

pheasants 2
butter 30g
unsmoked streaky bacon rashers 6, minimize into quick lengths, or small cubes of pancetta
onions 2, medium
dry cider 250ml
bay leaves 2
sage leaves 3 or 4
apples 4-6, small and tart

Preheat the oven to 160C/gasoline mark 3. Season the pheasants with salt and black pepper. Peel and roughly chop the onions. Soften the butter in a deep casserole or roasting dish over a reasonable warmth, add the bacon or pancetta and sizzle for a few minutes till the fats is golden, then add the onions and proceed till they’re smooth and pale gold. Take away from the pan and put aside.

Introduce the pheasants to the pan, letting them color on all sides, turning them within the fats as mandatory, till golden. Raise them out and put aside with the bacon.

Pour the cider into the pan and carry to the boil, stirring within the juices which have caramelised on the underside, then return the bacon, onions, pheasants and any escaped cooking juices to the pan.

Rating every apple round its center with a knife – it can cease them splitting within the oven. Add the bay, sage leaves and apples to the pan, then cowl with a lid, place within the oven and go away to roast for about 50 minutes.

Check for doneness – the meat ought to be juicy, very barely pink inside and the pores and skin ought to be amber gold. Take away from the oven and put aside, nonetheless lined, to relaxation for 10 minutes.

Serve the birds with the apples and pan juices. The aromatics within the tin ought to have the deeply appley spirit of autumn.

Comply with Nigel on Twitter @NigelSlater

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