It was actually an accident that both courses of last night's meal ended up containing cranberries. A realisation over the weekend that I still haven't eaten any pheasant this season, combined with the freezing cold weather and a need for something warming and substantial resulted in a trip to the butchers and a brace of pheasant in the shopping bag. I normally pot-roast pheasant with bacon, cider and apples, but thought I'd try a recipe involving red wine and sour cherries. Unable to find any dried sour cherries, I used dried cranberries instead. Dessert, a clementine and cranberry sorbet, arose for more practical reasons: fresh cranberries are half price in the supermarkets at the moment. You can't really get more festive than a sorbet combining two of Christmas's signature ingredients.
To accompany the pheasant, I made a sort of butternut squash crumble. Steamed pieces of squash, baked under a blanket of breadcrumbs toasted in olive oil with garlic, rosemary and orange zest. The colours are beautiful, and it tastes great too: the crunchy crumbs provide a nice contrast in texture to the soft, sweet squash.
The pheasant is easy: brown the bird in butter in a casserole dish, remove and saute onions and garlic in the pan. Put the bird back in, pour in some red wine and stock, add the dried fruit, a cinnamon stick, a bay leaf and some fresh thyme, season, put the lid on and cook in the oven for about 40 minutes. You end up with a wonderfully aromatic sauce, and a truly beautiful tangle of soft, sweet onions with a sharpness from the wine they have steeped in. The combination of dense, gamey meat and sweet onions is superb, and the squash works with it better than I had anticipated. Its sweetness is a good foil for the acidity of the wine, and the crumbs on top give a nice crunch. Even better when the dark sauce from the casserole has soaked into the crumbs and made everything rich and delicious.
The sorbet recipe is from this food blog, Pastry Studio. It is the reason my degree is suffering at the moment; I am obsessed with the recipes and the photography is absolutely beautiful. It's more of a sherbet than a sorbet, really, because it includes milk. Orange zest and sugar are blitzed in a blender before you mix them with orange juice (I used clementine juice), milk, vanilla and a bit of lemon juice. The cranberry compote is just fresh cranberries stewed with lemon juice, brown sugar and water. I churned the sherbet in the ice cream maker and then layered it with the compote before putting it in the freezer. The colours are lovely, though it does look rather like someone has just mixed jam and custard in an ice cream tub! I'd quite like to serve this alongside something warm and sticky, like a Christmas pudding. I think the contrast in flavour and temperature would be rather nice.