Category Archives: Recipes

Casserole of pheasant breasts with shitake mushrooms

A soggy start at daybreak, paddling through mud and puddles in driving rain to feed the alpacas & reindeer at Great Ground Farm, made me think about warm hearty food and  sowed the seeds for working out what to cook for tonight’s dinner. Thinking about dinner before I’d even had breakfast was perhaps not such a good idea as it made my working day even more arduous than usual. It’s not that I’m not dedicated to my craft (final edit of THE SKIPPERESS’S TALE is in full swing), but somehow my mind kept wandering from the subject matter back to food. Eventually (daily word count quota at the coal face of creativity reached) I relented and trotted eagerly to the kitchen to see what I could throw together. A problem then arose as I hadn’t had time to go food shopping for a week or two, so would have to work with what was around. I’m also still working with half a kitchen, no hob and an electric oven that’s on its last legs, but compared with the lack of roof and last week’s chimney fire it’s not really a problem at all. So, what ingredients were available? A tin of baked beans, a butternut squash and two bananas didn’t fill me with inspiration (& the bananas were for the parrot’s & macaws’ breakfast tomorrow). The last of the potatoes from the garden, a few green beans and some cavolo nero (black kale). Hmmm. I’d kind of built up my expectations for something a bit more inspiring.

Shitake mushrooms suddenly sprang to mind (or at least had sprung up overnight in a corner of the workshop thanks to a gift from my good friend and benefactor Lady Marrow of Barnsley) along with some pheasant breasts I’d already extricated from a brace of the lifeless feathered creatures that had appeared hanging on the wing mirror of my Land Rover (my aversion to organised game shooting still stands, but I couldn’t bear to waste them).  I haven’t included photos of the breast removal process as it’s a bit gory and reminiscent of Laurie Graham’s brilliant Jack the Ripper novel THE NIGHT IN QUESTION I’m currently reading. If anyone wants tips on how to do it, though, I’m more than happy to advise. Although I wouldn’t advise answering the door to the post lady half way through as the sight of me in a bloodstained apron brandishing a giblet-laden filleting knife gave her a bit of a fright and added another dimension to the complaint I’d made the week before that she’d ‘disturbed me in the middle of a murder’. Now, it seems, the gossip in the village is that the ‘odd man with the llamas’ might be a homicidal maniac. I’m quite upset because they’re not llamas, they’re alpacas…

Anyway, back to the pheasant breasts and shitake mushrooms. Having never combined the two ingredients, it occurred to me that the gamey/earthy flavours might work well together. Fortunately my hunch was correct and the result absolutely delicious…





4 pheasant breasts (or chicken breasts or preferably the more flavoursome thigh fillets would work well too)

250g shitake mushrooms – sliced

3 red onions (peeled & roughly chopped)

2 sticks celery (chopped) [optional]

2 tablespoons plain flour

1 tablesoon olive oil/rape seed oil

1 teaspoon piri piri spice

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon chopped stem ginger

2 teaspoons mustard

1 tablespoon mango chutney

450ml chicken stock

half glass sherry

dash of soy sauce

4 rashers streaky bacon


Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Clean & slice the mushrooms (there’s no need to removed the stalks if they aren’t tough) and put on a baking tray in the top of the oven with a little of the oil for about 20 mins.

Meanwhile put the onions in an oven proof casserole dish with a little oil and put in the middle of the oven (without the lid).

Mix the piri piri spice with the plain flour (reserving about two teaspoonfuls) and toss the pheasant breasts in it.

Take the mushrooms out of the oven, dust with the reserved flour and replace in the oven for another 10 mins.

By now, the onions should have begun to caramelise. Throw the pheasant breast in with them, drizzle with the rest of the oil, and cook until the breast have browned. Tossing them half way through will make them cook more evenly.

In the meantime the mushrooms need to be doused in the sherry (sake would work equally as well, but I couldn’t find any) and cooked for about 10 more mins.

Finally, put the mushrooms, chopped celery, garlic, mustard, chutney, soy sauce and chicken stock in with the breasts, put on the lid and cook for about 30-45 minutes.

Grill the streaky bacon to serve on top (or it could be chopped, fried & combined with the casserole).

I served it with roasted charlotte potatoes, crispy black kale & green beans.



Please excuse the large serving in the photo – I was extremely hungry!

I’m now planning another shitake mushroom recipe for tomorrow – probably with beef.

And, for those of you who have requested recipes using either alpaca or reindeer meat, the answer is firmly in the negative. I’m not sure I’d enjoy cooking with, let alone eating, anything that had a personality and a name…

Spiced Beef Casserole (Quick One Pot Method)

2014-03-13 16.13.39This is a deliciously different recipe for beef – and the best bit is that it is extremely quick & easy. If you were cooking this in a traditional method (a la Julia Child for example), you’d have to use 3 or 4 saucepans. This way you just use one pot – preferably a cast iron casserole – and the results are just as good. It’s an ideal weekend dish – quick to prepare then into the oven for as long as possible. Ideal for Rayburn/Aga type cookers too…


400g diced beef (stewing or braising) {Waitrose do 3 packs for £10]

1 tablespoon cooking oil

2 tablespoons plain flour

4 onions

200g mushrooms

1 red pepper

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon chopped chilli

1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon curry paste

2 tablespoons sweet chutney

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 brown stock cube dissolved in 250ml boiling water


Heat oven to 220 degrees C (or use top oven of Aga/Rayburn – floor of top oven works well). Chop onions, pepper & mushrooms, put in cooking pot & drizzle with the oil. Put in oven (without lid) for 30 mins. Add beef and cook for further 20 mins. Remove from oven & sprinkle with the flour & return to the oven for 10 minutes. Stir/shake & cook for further 5 minutes.

Add all other ingredients, stir & return to oven for an hour. Turn the heat down to 150 degrees c & cook for a further 1-2 hours (or transfer to bottom oven of Aga & cook for further 2-3 hours).

A glass of red wine is an optional addition – or drink it while you’re waiting for it to cook…


Roast Belly Pork – with perfect crackling every time!

This is a really easy way to cook this inexpensive cut of pork – & this quite peculiar way to get perfect crackling never fails. A 500g piece of belly pork should feed 3.


500g Belly Pork

2 onions – chopped

1 heaped tablespoon plain flour

1 chicken stock cube dissolved in 250ml boiling water

2 apples (preferably red skinned) – sliced with skin on.

1 tablespoon sage (fresh or dried)

Heat the oven to 220 degrees C. Put the belly pork in the sink and pour boiling water over the skin. Dry & repeat twice. Make sure it’s completely dry and place in over proof on top of chopped onions. Surround with apples, sprinkle flour around and put near top of the oven for about 30 minutes. Remove, add the stock and sage and cook for a further hour. Easy & delicious!

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Onion & Sundried Tomato Bread

This is a really easy recipe for a bread maker & – as I’ve often been asked by people who notice I’ve got one if I use it – here’s the proof that I do.

500g bread flour (either white or mixture of white & malted grain)

1 teaspoon dried yeast

1 teaspoon rock salt.

1 red onion (chopped)

5 or 6 sundried tomatoes (those from a jar in olive oil are best)

270ml Milk & water (half & half) – luke warm

knob of butter


Put all ingredients in bread maker & put on ‘Large’ or ‘Large Dark’ setting. Easy!

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Mixed Bean & Chorizo Soup

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It’s a chilly misty morning on the farm, so I’ve decided to take a break from my research into oppression under the Ceaucescu regime in the 1980s (for Amelia Wilde & the Shocking Sins of the Mother-in-Law) to make some soup – after all, if an army marches on its stomach, a writer’s output is only as good as the balanced contents of his stomach. To be honest, though, the wood-burning stove in the Book Shed isn’t going yet and I need an excuse to stay in the kitchen by the Rayburn…

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I put some dried mixed beans in soak last night & they’re now simmering on the hob. I can almost taste the warming sustenance of this Mixed Bean & Chorizo Soup that’ll be ready for lunch time. It really is easy and if, like me, you’ve got a range cooker that’s on all the time, it makes good use of the oven & hob that would otherwise not be used much during the day.


1 cup dried mixed beans

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 onions

handful of mushrooms

1 red chilli

Chorizo (chunk about 2 inches long)

500g passata (or chopped tomatoes)

I teaspoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon Marmite

I brown stock cube dissolved in 500ml boiling water

Parsley (optional)

Soak beans in cold water overnight, then rinse, cover with fresh water then bring to the boil & simmer for an hour and a half.

Chop the onions, chilli, chorizo (with skin removed) & mushrooms & fry in the oil until really well cooked. (I actually drizzle the oil over them & put them in the oven of the Rayburn for about 40 mins). Add the beans (complete with cooking liquid), passata (or chopped tomatoes), sugar (to neutralise the acid of the tomatoes), Marmite & stock, bring to the boil & simmer for at least 30 mins, preferably more than an hour. The longer it simmers, the more the flavours will develop.

Serve with chopped parsley if desired. It will go really well with Onion & Sun-dried Tomato Bread.

The soup will keep for a few days in the fridge or will freeze really well.

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Right! Back to Ceaucescu…

Crispy Roast Duck Crown with Cranberry Gravy

When I was buying a Gressingham duck crown in my local butchers Marriotts on Saturday (this is a real butchers not the fictional one in The Hairdresser’s Tale ,although it is in same street in the same village) I overheard a lady behind me saying “I wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to cook that!” Well, Mrs Furbelow, as promised, here’s a really easy recipe. It only takes about 20 minutes to prepare and is well worth the effort. I cooked it yesterday for Sunday lunch and, even though it was in the oven for longer than planned owing to a quick dog walk turning into a long trek involving a pulsating marsh and a tale of near fatal shooting (about which there’s no time to expound today), it was still absolutely delicious…


Duck crown (or 4 duck breasts)

2 tablespoons oil

1 red onion (chopped)

1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)

1 tablespoon plain flour

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)

Quarter cup red wine

Juice & zest of 1 orange (or 2 tablespoons orange juice)

I brown stock cube dissolved in a cup of boiling water

Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 220° C

Dry the duck crown thoroughly. Heat oil in a pan until smoking hot the fry the duck crown in the ready heated pan until the skin is well browned and crispy – even a little burnt! Move the duck crown to an oven proof dish. Put in the centre/top of the oven (cooking time 5 minutes for every 100g if you want the meat still pink, up to double that if you want it well done – if you’re using duck breasts halve the time).

Remove most of the fat from the pan you crisped the duck in and fry the onion over a high heat until caramelised. Add the cranberries until they pop then add a table spoon of plain flour – stir to cook. Add the brown stock, honey, balsamic vinegar, red wine and orange juice & zest. Cook, stirring, until thickened, then pour all over your duck crown and cook for the remaining time.

When cooked, take out of the oven and rest for 10 minutes before serving.