I do wonder why we tend to reserve so many lovely things for Christmas eating when they are so good for other times too! Whilst this one was chosen as our Christmas terrine it would work really well throughout the whole of the ‘game season’ from November to the end of January when pheasant is so plentiful! That would give you really seasonal eating. As all the ingredients can be frozen you can of course extend this to other parts of the year too.
We have made this previously using both fresh pheasant and also using ‘confit pheasant’ that we had made earlier. On balance I think the latter is preferable but not strictly necessary (confit pheasant is very easy to do – and confit duck can be purchased and is a really good substitute too). We were using chestnuts and pancetta that we brought back from Italy, but these are easily available from most supermarkets in the UK.
We were going to use this terrine directly on the table and slice from there and so we wanted to decorate it a little. Before adding the strips of pancetta we put 3 bay leaves into the base of the terrine and then placed the pancetta over these in the normal way to hold them in place.
When turning the terrine out this would leave the bay leaves as decoration on top of the pancetta as you can see in the picture. All that was left to do once put on the serving board was to place 3 juniper berries in the centre of the bay leaves to finish off the decoration.
The terrine was built up in stages, so after lining the dish with pancetta the meat mix (see below for step by step details) was packed in, taking care to exclude any air pockets. When half full the reserved pheasant breasts were sliced and arranged over the mix. This was followed by the remainder of the chestnuts. This way they would provide a distinctive layer.
The terrine was then filled with the remainder of the mix. It is worth taking care to ensure that the mix is packed in well to the chestnut layer so that there are no air pockets or the terrine is likely to crumble when trying to cut it.
Finally the pancetta was folded over the domed mix to finish off the preparation. The top was covered with some lightly oiled foil and the lid was popped back in place. The cooking can be done either in the BGE as we did or in a domestic oven. Either way the terrine needs to be placed in some form of Bain Marie to make sure the terrine cooks gently and evenly. The cooking time was around 2 hours at 120C.
During the cooking it is worth draining off any excess juices or this will just end up in the water of the Bain Marie. To check that the cooking is complete, ensure that the juices run clear when pierced with a skewer but more accurately, check with a thermometer probe that the centre has reached at least 65-70°C. The terrine will feel quite firm. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes. At his point tip out any more liquid, cover with cling film, then place a piece of cardboard covered in aluminium foil on top (cut so it fits the inside of the terrine) and rest some weight on top of this. Allow to cool overnight in the fridge.
In the morning carefully release the terrine from it’s dish. This can often be done by running a knife around the terrine keeping it close to the dish. If using a big terrine, as in this case, that may not be enough. The best way to release it is then to stand the cool terrine in some warm water just for a couple of minutes to slightly soften the jelly that surrounds the pancetta. The pheasant and chestnut terrine was tipped out and wrapped in clingfilm and put straight back into the terrine dish once it was washed and cleaned. Putting it back into the terrine preserves the shape and the cling film allows for easy and reliable release from the dish itself.
When ready to serve, all that was left to do was to dress it with the 3 additional juniper berries and a little holly as an appropriate winter decoration. Then give it pride of place on the table!
Footnote:- there are so many potential variations to this terrine whilst keeping the ‘game theme’ – one we have really enjoyed is a mix of confit duck and pheasant – but try your own combinations and let me know how they workout!
Pheasant and Chestnut Terrine
Pheasant and Chestnut Terrine - a perfect autumn and winter dish - not just for Christmas
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 Onion, finely chopped
- 750g Pork Mince
- Small handful of chopped Pancetta
- 4 chicken livers
- 2 Pheasant breasts and 2 pheasant legs
- Handful of sausage making rusk or breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp of aromatic Gin
- 1 tbsp of Port
- Freshly chopped Thyme
- Freshly chopped Rosemary
- Freshly chopped Oregano
- Some fennel seeds or fennel fronds
- 12 crushed Juniper berries
- 6 crushed cloves
- 1½ tsp fine sea salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- Large handful of cooked chestnuts
- 20 slices of pancetta
- Step 1 Heat the oil in a pan and gently soften the onion for around 10 mins – cool
- Step 2 Reserve the 2 pheasant breasts, half the chestnuts and the 20 pancetta strips
- Step 3 Finely chop the liver and chop the meat from the pheasant legs being careful to exclude the bony tendons from the drumsticks. Mix all the other ingredients except those being reserved. Once all mixed together it is a good time to test the seasoning. To do this, fry a little piece of the mix in a pan, then taste and adjust as necessary.
- Step 4 If cooking in the BGE, set up for indirect cooking at around 120C. A domestic oven can be used in the same way.
- Step 5 Set 3 bay leaves in the base of the terrine and then line the terrine with the pancetta slices overlapping each slice as you go. Leave the ends hanging over the sides. Fill with the mixture, making sure it gets into the corners. When half full add a layer of sliced pheasant breasts and the other half of the chestnuts. Add the rest of the terrine mix, pushing it well into the pheasant and chestnut layer (it will dome slightly above the terrine).
- Step 6 Bring the pancetta up to cover the filling. Cover the dish with lightly oiled foil and add the lid if available. Place the terrine in some form of Bain Marie to make sure the terrine cooks gently and evenly. Bake for around 2 hrs at 120C, drain any excess juices and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes. The terrine should be firm, the juices should run clear when pierced with a skewer. A thermometer probe inserted into the centre should reach at least 65-70°C.
- Step 7 Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes. Tip out any more liquid, cover with cling film, then place a piece of cardboard covered in aluminium foil on top (cut so it fits the inside of the terrine) and rest some weight on top of this. Allow to cool overnight in the fridge
- Step 8 Slice thickly and serve with your preferred accompaniment