29 NOVEMBER 2003, Page 50

Pheasant pilav

Thanks to a hot summer, the countryside 1 heaves with pheasant, dead and alive, and it must be eaten, or shooting, too, will enter the sights of the anti-enjoyment lobby. If this means just cutting the breasts from the carcass — and to hell with the rest of the bird — so be it. Life may well be too short to pluck pheasants. Pilav is a sympathetic recipe for cooks that cannot bear the tedium of another roasted game bird. It is also a dish that takes the now so-English pheasant back to the Islamic countries of its roots — regions very much in mind — where vine fruits and nuts often share a dish with meat.

12 oz/360 g long-grain rice 4 tablespoons goose fat 8 pheasant breasts, skin removed Freshly ground black pepper

4 medium white onions, peeled and chopped 4 sticks celery, sliced very thin

Half to 1 teaspoon soft crystal sea salt 4 tablespoons golden sultanas 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted in dry pan and ground The pips from 2 pomegranates 4 tablespoons flaked almonds, toasted in dry pan

A few mint leaves

Cover the rice with plenty of water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes, until tender but not soft. Drain, fork through and leave to cool. Heat the fat in a large frying pan and fry the pheasant breasts gently for 3 minutes on each side. Remove to a plate and cut into half-inchthick slices. Add the onion and celery to the pan and cook until soft. Season with salt, return the pheasant to the pan with the rice and sultanas. Warm through, stirring; tip the pilav on to a plate and scatter over the cumin, pomegranate pips, almonds and leaves. Eat, hot or at room temperature, with creamy yoghurt on the side.

(Serves 8)

Rose Prince