2 pheasants, halved
2 tbsp olive oil
50g unsalted butter
salt and pepper
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 sprig thyme, leaves stripped
3 tbsp Calvados
2 tsp brown sugar
500ml dry cider
100ml double cream
2 apples, granny smiths, peeled, cored and cut into 8
2 leeks, cut once lengthways and then cut into half rounds
Preheat the oven to 220C.
Heat the olive oil and 20g of the butter in a large hot frying pan.
Place the seasoned pheasants flesh-side down in the pan. Fry over a moderate heat until the skin is golden brown all over, about 5-10 minutes. Remove the birds from the pan and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat an oven pan with some oil on the hob and add the onions and thyme leaves and cook until softened.
Add the calvados, bring to a boil and simmer until the liquid has reduced. Add the sugar, mix well, then add the cider and bring to a simmer.
Heat the frying pan and add 20g of the butter. Add the apple slices and brown on both sides, then add to the oven pan.
Add the pheasants to the pan flesh-side up. Bring the pan back to a simmer and transfer to the hot oven for 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the remaining 15g of butter in a small frying pan. Add the leeks and some salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are tender.
Remove the pheasants from the cooking liquor and set aside to rest. Return the pan to the heat and bring to the boil. Simmer until the volume of liquid has reduced by half. Add the cream and cook until the sauce begins to thicken.
To serve, place a portion of pheasant on each serving plate. Spoon over the leeks and pour the cider sauce over the pheasant.
Early season pheasants can be roasted - but later in the season braising can help keep the bird moist. Pheasants are currently £6-50 a brace in my area, making this a great value meal