Happy New Year – with the beginning of a New Year, the snow drops are out and the daffodils are emerging. Tthere is the promise of good things to come and spring will soon be upon us. The hedgerows maybe sparse and the ground frosty but this remains a good time to celebrate fresh seasonal food. With this in mind my blog this month will focus upon British produce widely available at this time of year that is healthy, wholesome and warming namely; Bullshot, Sloe Gin and Pheasant.

photo of bullshot ingredients

Firstly; Bullshot. A peppery warming drink that is perfect for outdoor activites. This traditional beverage was historically drunk at Elevenses on Pheasant Shoots on the Estate, a pause in the shooting day when the guns would gather for refreshments to help keep the cold of the bitter wind and driving rain at bay. Now you can enjoy this drink while out on a guided walk on the Estate with me. The recipe has been handed down through time and is easy and very quick to make, you will require a Thermos Flask and the following to make enough for 10 people.

5 tins of Beef consomme – best is the readily available Baxters brand

Half a bottle of Dry Sherry – Tio Pepe

A good glug of Worcestershire sauce and freshly ground black pepper

Method – Heat the consomme to almost boiling point and add the sherry, Worcestershire sauce and pepper. Bring back to near boiling before placing in a Thermos flask to drink later in the day. It is best served with hot sausages covered in honey or with English mustard to complete the warming effect.


Having warmed your spirits why not try lifting your spirits with a glass of Sloe Gin.photo of sloe berries on hawthorn bush

Ready at this time of year this beautiful drink is typically made in the Autumn by collecting Sloes (berries of the blackthorn bush) the berries are plentiful in the hedgerows near to our shepherd hut and are black with a distinctive blue hue. They are ready when they can be easily split when rolled between your thumb and forefinger.

Pick enough berries to half fill your bottles. A myth is to pick after the first frost but this is not necessary and picking should be done when the crop is ripe. Placing the berries overnight in the freezer will save you having to prick them and allow the juice and flavour to be released.photo of sloe gin glass and hip flask

Place the frozen berries in clean bottles, (ideally sterilised and thoroughly rinsed) to about halfway.  Top up with Gin and add 2 tablespoons of caster sugar. Shake and place in a cupboard. Turn the bottles occasionally in the first month to dissolve the sugar.  A mistake can be to add too much sugar. The drink improves the longer it is left and a minimum is 3 months should be allowed. Better still a year or longer. With time the bitter tannins (which make the berries so lip curlingly bitter,) breakdown and if too much sugar was added at the beginning it results in a very sweet drink. It is better to make a sugar syrup by heating equal parts water and sugar on a stove and when cool adding to the mature sloe gin to your taste before drinking.


Finally – Pheasant with caramelised apples, chestnut and cider gravy.

Pheasant is an understated meat that is stronger in flavour than chicken but like most game, is leaner too. Available from Bonner’s Butchers in nearby Ilminster. You will see many pheasants from the windows of the shepherd hut. This recipe has been adapted from one available from Nick Nairn.

You will require;photo of pheasant breasts wrapped in pancetta

2 pheasant breasts

4 slices of pancetta or rashers of streaky bacon

1tbsp sunflower oil

1 green apple

1tsp sugar

12 cooked chestnuts (can be bought vacuum packed)

150mls dry cider

150mls chicken stockphoto cooked pheasant breasts wrapped in pancetta with chesnuts and cider gravy

100mls double cream

20g butter

lemon juice

salt and pepper

Take the pheasant breasts and remove the skin, season with salt and pepper and wrap with the pancetta/bacon.

Heat the sunflower oil on a generous heat and place the breasts ‘skin’ side down and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes before turning over.

Melt half the butter in the pan and baste the meat with the butter for about 2 minutes.

Now lift the breasts out and set them aside on a warm plate to rest.

Add the remaining butter to the hot pan with the peeled/cored and roughly chopped apple, fry for 2-3 minutes with the sugar. Next add the chestnuts and cider and boil until the liquid is almost gone.

Next add the stock and reduce this by about a third by boiling. Add the cream and bring back to the boil.

Return the pheasant breasts to the pan and warm through for 2-3 minutes.

Serve immediately with freshly chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon.

Goes really well with seasonal vegetables such as cabbage, carrot or leeks.