A shooting stew is something you would serve a shooting party for lunch – if you move in country circles where large numbers of people need to be fed after a long morning spent blasting birds out of the sky, an activity which will leave them cold, tired and famished. It is safe to assume that those so preoccupied enjoy eating as well as killing their prey, so your typical shooters’ stew should contain game birds as well as beef.
Other hungry people will enjoy this combination after any form of exercise on a cold day, with or without guns. The amounts, which are generous, may be halved to serve 6 people with hearty appetites, or 8 who have been indoors watching TV
Poach the pheasants in simmering chicken stock for 45 minutes. This is a good way of dealing with badly shot birds or last year’s from the freezer. Allow to cool in the stock and, when cool enough to handle, strip off all the meat and reserve, returning the carcass to the stock and continuing to simmer for 1 hour. Strain and reserve the stock.
Fry the lardons gently until the fat runs and they start to brown. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a big pot.
Add some sunflower oil to the frying pan and turn up the heat. Dust the beef shin portions in seasoned flour and sear them a few at a time, adding them to the pot.
Put some more oil in the pan and sweat the onions until soft but not brown, then scatter them over the meat.
Fry the carrot strips slowly until caramelized. Add the celery, garlic and
Pour over the bottle of red wine and top up with pheasant stock to cover. Bring to the boil, skim, lower the heat and season with a little salt and lots of pepper. Simmer uncovered for 2 hours. Check to see if the meat is done, then adjust the seasoning if needed. If not quite done, continue cooking, checking every 15 minutes until it is. It is much better to do this than overcook, as this results in dry, flaky meat. The stew can be held until the next day and reheated.
To make the dumplings, put the flour in a food processor with the diced butter, salt and pepper. Blitz briefly to a crumb. Add the eggs and parsley leaves. Pulse-chop and then dribble a spoonful or two of cold water through the feeder tube until it starts to hold as a coherent mass. Remove and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Divide into
Poach the dumplings in simmering salted water for 20 minutes or, for the best result of all, steam them. They take about the same time but emerge firm, light and dry. They are always better cooked separately from a stew and using butter rather than suet gives a nicer taste.
About 10 minutes before you are ready to serve, stir the pheasant meat into the stew and serve with the dumplings.
© 1998 Alastair Little and Richard Whittington estate. All rights reserved.