We’re delighted to now be working with Lady Harriet Hamilton who is producing an outstanding smoked pheasant breast on Lord Hamilton’s Apley Estate in Shropshire. We wanted to get to know her and her brilliant product a little better…
1. Hi. First things first: where do you hail from?
I grew up in the countryside but have spent most of my life since leaving school in wonderful cities – London, Brussels, Paris & Oxford. I love both worlds & know I’m very lucky to be able to split my time between both.
2. What did you want to be when you grew up?
An eventer (I rode aged 6-16), a gymnast (I’m petite & flexible) or I wanted to work abroad with the Foreign Office.
3. How did you earn your living before running the Apley Estate?
My Masters was in Electronic Information Management which I love & has been incredibly useful for the digital marketing part of my work now. It’s all about gathering in information, handling it & redistributing it. My work changed & developed at the same time as the internet was becoming widely used.
4. When, where and how did you learn to make this delicious product?
Married to Lord Hamilton for 20yrs, every winter is dominated by the shooting season. Pheasants are widely available & broadly speaking, are very under appreciated by British consumers (on the continent, very generally, more game is eaten & by a wider section of the population).
It happened by chance: I gave Gavin a smoker for his birthday. He dabbled in smoking anything including pheasants. School class party said all parents had to bring something to eat. We took smoked pheasant pate. The other parents loved it. Very kindly, totally on her own initiative & with no motives other than kindness, one parent introduced me to the CEO of a big London shop, which is always looking for new products. We met up but they wanted the sliced smoked pheasant breasts not the smoked pheasant pate. Great – we had a market before the product. We didn’t want to set up our own smoker. So I found a local smokehouse with whom we experimented & tested for months. Once the food testing laboratories had given it a 3 week shelf life, I developed the packaging & began marketing it.
5. What is your favourite way to serve the pheasant breast?
I have 3 favourite ways of eating it: Slicing it the short way (across) & serving on a cracker with a spot of horseradish or onion marmalade. Tossing it in a salad of baby spinach leaves with slices of mango & a drizzle of dressing. Or buzzing it up in the hand blender with a dash of lemon juice & coarse ground pepper, to make smoked pheasant pâté. Even just on its own, straight out of the packet & sliced, with a bowl of homemade soup at my desk (finish off with an English apple).
6. Can you tell us a little about other the other products you produce?
Our Apley Farm Shop butcher is very creative. This season he’s created game rissoles & pheasant roulade, both of which are really good ways to enjoy pheasant. We also create a huge & ever changing range of own pork pies, sausages, quiches & even the Apley ‘Cheshire’ Cheese, which was first made on the site of our farm shop in 1956. We sell our own Apley beef in our farm shop too, keeping food miles at their lowest & provenance strongest.
7. Do you have plans to make other types of charcuterie in the future?
Perhaps a mixed pack of 1 pheasant & 1 smoked partridge breast. Perhaps mix smoking flavours, eg. apple smoked pheasant breasts. But first I need time to get this widely appreciated & enjoyed over the next 12 months !
8. Finally, you’ve been told that for exceptional medical reasons you must turn vegan tomorrow – what’s on the menu for dinner tonight?
Of course, smoked pheasant salad followed by beef wellington prepared by our brilliant cook. She lives in the estate village, cooks for all our shoot lunches & even looks like Delia Smith.
Lord & Lady Hamilton’s smoked pheasant is initially only available to wholesale customers, but we hope to make it available to retail customers soon! Check out their website for more information.