Welcome to our wild woodland Izakaya dish, Pheasant Tsukune!
With the end of the pheasant season dawning we thought it would be rather lovely to give you a little parting gift, a brilliant little way to use pheasant mince and a great little addition to a Japanese inspired spread. Big bonus this is usually a pretty big hit with the kids or even to be used as a gateway pheasant dish for those who have been put off by high (hung too long/gamey) pheasant.
Tsukune, generally speaking, are minced chicken meatballs skewered onto a stick before being grilled over hot embers and bathed in a distinctly savoury yet sweet sauce. We have chosen to use pheasant but do so with caution, pheasant can dry out with a mere slight side glance, turning tough and horrible. So we are going to combat this by using nice young, plump and fatty hen (female) birds (see our spotlight on pheasant on our blog) but also by using indirect, followed by direct cooking. The pheasant is started off at around 150℃ for a few minutes to set its shape but also to lock in all of the fat within the skewer, keeping it juicy. Then we switch over to a high heat direct grilling to form a beautiful sear and crust on the outside.
The sauce we mentioned earlier is called tare in Japan and is a deeply savoury and sweet sauce made by combining at a minimum soy, sake, mirin and sugar or honey. Even this we have given a wild spin using our crab apple infused soy sauce, which we often use as a base for ponzu. Elderflower infused vinegar and toasted common hogweed seeds also add lovely brightness to the tare. Tare often varies in viscosity and flavour profile so please do play with your own creations to make the perfect tare to suit you and your taste buds.
For the Pheasant Tsukune
340g pheasant mince
25g panko breadcrumbs
15g spring onion, finely minced
1 egg, beaten
6g minced ginger
6g minced garlic
3g sesame oil
1g toasted and ground common hogweed seed, or finely grated orange zest
Crab apple and common hogweed seed tare, Recipe below
Garnish – Finely chopped spring onion, Crispy onions, Toasted sesame seeds, Mustard of your choice and lots of pickles
For the crab apple and common hogweed seed tare
120g crab apple infused soy sauce, or dark soy sauce
15g elderflower vinegar or rice wine vinegar
25g garlic, bashed
50g spring onion
20g ginger, sliced
2g common hogweed seeds, or a small piece of orange peel
To make the tare place everything into a heavy based saucepan. Bring slowly to a simmer and cook until the tare has reduced by half.
Strain through a sieve and cool completely before placing into the fridge until needed.
Store for up to a week in the fridge.
Place all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix together well with your hands so that the mixture becomes a little sticky and everything begins to emulsify a little bit.
Divide the mix into 8 portions, roll into cylinders and push a flat or twisted metal skewer through it and refrigerate if you’re not cooking them straight away.
Fill the fire bowl of your Big Green Egg (we’re using the Mini Max here) with Green Olive Firewood Charcoal and set it up for indirect cooking with the Conveggtor plate legs up and grill on top, settle down the temperature to 150℃. Place the pheasant tsukune onto the grill and cook gently for 6-8minutes, this gentle cooking helps to set the shape of the pheasant tsukune and hold on to a little more fat. Making them all the more juicy.
Remove the pheasant tsukune to a plate, using fire gloves, remove the Conveggtor plate and place the grill rack back into your Big Green Egg. Place the pheasant tsukune on the grill and brush on the crab apple and hogweed seed tare. Close the dome on the Egg and sizzle for 30 seconds, open the dome, turn the pheasant tsukune and glaze again. Continue this process until the pheasant hits a core temperature of 71℃ (unless it’s cold outside and you aren’t resting then take off the grill at 75℃. Serve straight from the grill with a little mustard of your choice and some pickled cucumbers.
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Only eat something if you are 100% sure of its identification, as some plants can make you unwell, or worse still – some are even deadly. Books are very helpful for this; one of our favourites is ‘Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland‘, ‘Food for Free‘ and ‘The Forager’s Handbook‘. Websites and social media groups can also be helpful, but make sure you trust the source entirely before you eat your finds.
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