Pheasant breast with prunes in Armagnac

Pheasant breast with prunes in Armagnac

Leiths How to Cook
Peter Cassidy


Quantity Ingredient
2 oven-ready pheasants
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 thyme sprigs
12 pitted prunes
150ml armagnac
1 onion
4 garlic cloves
750ml Chicken and veal stock
parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
20g butter
2 tablespoons creme fraiche
freshly ground black pepper

To serve

Quantity Ingredient
Savoy cabbage with pancetta


  1. Carefully remove the pheasant breasts from the pheasants and place them in a plastic bag with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the thyme and 2 or 3 turns of pepper. Leave to marinate in the fridge for 2–3 hours.
  2. Remove the legs and thighs from the carcass and cut in half. Break the carcass in two. Put the remaining olive oil in a deep saucepan and place over a medium to high heat. Brown the legs, thighs, wings and carcasses well, turning them to colour evenly, about 15–20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, soak the prunes in the Armagnac. Halve, peel and chop the onion and bash the unpeeled garlic cloves with the flat side of a large knife. Remove the pheasant bones from the saucepan; set aside. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and sauté quickly for 3–4 minutes. Pour off any excess fat and discard.
  4. Drain the prunes, reserving the Armagnac.
  5. Deglaze the saucepan with the Armagnac and reduce by at least one-third. Add the stock, parsley sprigs, bay leaf and peppercorns, the browned bones and enough water to just cover the bones, then bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook gently for 45 minutes, skimming occasionally. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve and set aside.
  6. To cook the pheasant breasts, remove them from the marinade and season with salt. Heat a frying pan over a low to medium heat and place the breasts skin side down in the pan to render the fat beneath the skin and gently brown the skin, about 4–6 minutes. When the skin is golden and crisp, turn the breasts over and cook for a further 4 minutes. Pour off the excess fat and add the butter. Allow the butter to melt before basting it over the breasts. When the breasts are cooked (feel for a firmness on the sides), remove from the frying pan and set aside to rest.
  7. Pour off the butter from the frying pan, add the sauce to the pan and reduce until the flavour is concentrated and the consistency is lightly syrupy. Add the crème fraîche, taste and season. Finally, add the prunes to heat through.
  8. Transfer the pheasant breasts to plates and pour the sauce and prunes around them. Serve with the rosti potatoes and Savoy cabbage.


  • This is a very useful way of cooking any game bird. The smaller the bird the less cooking time the breasts will require. The Armagnac can be substituted with brandy or a fortified wine such as Madeira, and the vegetable accompaniments can be varied.

    Pheasant breast with red cabbage and chestnuts: Omit the prunes. Serve the pheasant with red cabbage with chestnuts and bacon rather than Savoy cabbage and pancetta.

    Pheasant breast with Marsala and wilted spinach: Use Marsala in place of Armagnac in the sauce. Serve the pheasant with wilted spinach and celeriac purée instead of the cabbage.
Leiths School of food and wine
cookery course
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