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David’s pheasant breasts sautéd in butter and marsala recipe

wooden steak hammerYou will need a steak hammer for this recipe or a sturdy wooden rolling pin. This is the story of how I found mine.

Many years ago, at the end of my first tumultuous love affair, my mother gave me a two week holiday on the island of Hero (one stop on from Gomera) in the Canary Islands. She booked me into a hotel that was starred in The Good Hotel Guide. She had loathed my boyfriend and probably hoped that I’d meet a new Adonis.

I was happy to go along with the plan and arrived safely on the island in a small propeller plane. The spacious hotel reception was suspiciously quiet when I checked in. It wasn’t until I went down for dinner that I realised that I was the only guest they had.

A waiter stood beside the table topping up my glass after every sip. He spoke no English and despite having a chunky Spanish phrasebook that my mum had tucked into my case, I failed to communicate anything that did not encompass a finger and a menu. I staggered up to my room and contemplated two weeks of not speaking. The thought was so alarming that I fell asleep immediately.

After four empty voiceless days my neck was beginning to ache with nodding and smiling. I went down to dinner and spotted a man eating at another table. By this stage I would have talked to an animated pot plant. So when he smiled I grinned. He stood up and suggested that we share a table. Without hesitation I leapt across the restaurant and settled happily opposite this stranger. He introduced himself. He was a German, living in South Africa. He told me that he was a hairdresser and his second name was Adolf (this alone indicates how old he was). He was also wearing a wig.

He was so charming that when he mentioned that he’d hired a Cinquecenta and that we could explore the island together, I accepted immediately. This handmade wooden steak hammer was bought on one of those trips. I bought it because I liked it and reckoned that one day it would be useful. It slept decoratively until it was woken with an enthusiastic kiss by Danny, twenty years later.

David’s pheasant breasts sautéed in butter and Marsala recipe (for 2)

My friend Emma is married to a man with a penchant for creating exquisite game recipes. David also shoots, which is handy, so she doesn’t even need to drive to the butcher. They gave these schnitzels to a couple who had gone off pheasant and after a tentative taste they loved them.


  • 2 pheasant breasts
  • 1 lime (the juice)
  • Plain seasoned flour
  • Large knob of butter
  • Marsala (small glass)


  • Beat the pheasant breasts to 1 cm thickness using a steak hammer or rolling pin.
  • Place the breasts in a bag with the juice of a lime for twenty minutes (David tootles off to have a bath at this stage). The bag will ensure that the lime comes in contact with as much of the meat as possible.
  • Heat the butter in a frying pan and dip the breasts in the seasoned flour. Cook them over a moderate heat for three minutes each side. They should be golden brown.
  • When cooked, set the breasts aside in a warm place whilst you make the sauce. Add a generous splosh of marsala (you could use sherry at a pinch) and allow to simmer and absorb the residue from the pan. Pour over the breasts and serve with mashed potatoes and green beans.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Clarencequay

    Thanks for this tip. This would be good for chicken breasts too!

  2. clarencequay

    I have a method for pheasant breasts as escallopes – instand of bashing them. (I use the same method for chicken breasts. Use a sharp knife make a lenghthways incision at deepest part of breast to depth of escallope – not all way through then turn knife at right angles and cut out from this incision at same depth without going all way through and “open” the breast meat out. Good coating of seasoned flour and fry. Great with good Pesto and Spagetti.

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