This dish has a real North African feel to it – the smell of caramelising harissa paste cooking over the flames of a barbecue sends you off to Marrakesh or Fez, but you are as likely to find this in the markets and streets of Cadiz, Cordoba and Granada. Marinating the pheasant in harissa not only adds its fiery, smoky delicious flavour, but also helps to moisten and tenderise the meat. You can do this with partridge, pigeon or even chicken.
To spatchcock the pheasants, lay them breast side down on a wooden chopping board and press down firmly to flatten them. Cut through the backbone and ribs with kitchen scissors and remove the bones. Insert two wooden skewers diagonally on opposite sides to hold the bird in shape whilst cooking. Score the legs with a sharp knife 2 to 3 times to speed up the cooking process. Place the pheasants on a tray, spoon over the harissa paste and rub into the meat, ensuring it is fully coated. Transfer to the fridge, covered, for 2 hours and then remove to come up to room temperature before cooking.
For the chicory, place the cut chicory in a hot sauté pan with a drizzle of olive oil, seasoning and a sprinkle of sugar. Cook over a medium heat until tender and caramelised. Light a barbecue to optimum heat, ensuring the coals turn ash grey before cooking, or heat a griddle pan over a medium heat.
Season the pheasants and drizzle with a little oil. Place them on the grill, in batches if necessary, and cook for 3 minutes on the breast side to caramelise. Turn them over and either move to a cooler level or area on the barbecue, or turn the griddle pan down. Cook slowly for 8 minutes to cook through, turning once. The birds should still be a little pink and nicely caramelised and crisp on the outside. Squeeze over the lemon juice, season again and then leave the birds to rest in a warm spot for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with fresh orange segments and the caramelised chicories.
Spoon over any juices from the resting of the birds, whisked with a little orange juice left from the segments (or an extra splash if there’s none left) and some extra harissa.
Thank you to Ben Tish for sharing this recipe with us. Recipe originally published in Glorious Game. Photograph © John Carey
Spatch-cocking the pheasant means it can lie flat when grilled. It cooks at a relatively high temperature, allowing the skin to crisp on the outside, whilst the meat remains juicy and tender.