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Pot roast pheasant (gypsy style) recipe for Christmas Eve

pheasant village signA Cottage Smallholder Christmas tradition is pot roast pheasant on Christmas Eve. Partly because it’s in season and is a treat but mainly because it’s bunged in the oven for a good hour an a half whilst I get on with another task such as helping Father Christmas with packing the stockings for the household. F.C. usually stops for a sherry early evening to swap recipes, although it’s awkward manoeuvring the sleigh in the back since we fenced the kitchen garden and shortened the runway (Heathrow take note).

Cooking game can be tricky. A lot of recipes assume that you know the sex and the age of the bird. This is hard to discern unless you have been presented with the bird complete with feathers. If you buy it from a supermarket, go for the smaller bird. This should be a hen or a young cock if you are lucky. These can be roasted open in the oven for 30-40 minutes and should be delicious. More often than not you will be cooking a cock over a year old. Open roasting these will have you chewing into the next decade. I cook most game assuming that I have been given a wise old bird. This works well.

This recipe came about in a desperate effort to tempt Danny back from the edge.

I was very proud of my original recipe until we were planning a supper party and Danny said the fatal words,
“I just can’t face pheasant again.”
This was a year when we were given a lot of game. We now know that we had hung the birds for too long. It was far too rich and “gamey” and we had overdosed.

Our new recipe is adapted from two Normandy pheasant recipes, with a smattering of Romany gypsy tips. They are the kings when it comes to slow cooked wildlife, after all.

I was determined to create a dish so delicious that D would not be able to resist, so I worked on this recipe a bit more, tweaking it and cooking the pheasant for a bit longer. The bread at the bottom turns into a heavenly mush that’s almost as good as the bird. The cooking method ensures that the bird is tender and scrumptious.

D is now a convert. Nowadays he opens an eye and suggests a pheasant pot roast for supper before I have jotted down his breakfast order.

Pot roast pheasant (gypsy style) for two


  • 1 hen pheasant (if you only have an old cock it’s worth marinating the bird in olive oil, lemon juice and white wine overnight)
  • 2 slices of white doughy bread to line the base of the casserole (crusts removed)
  • 1 bramley cooking apple or two eating apples and half a lemon
  • 6 slices of streaky bacon
  • 1 large glass of white wine (150ml)
  • 3-4 of sprigs of thyme (9-12 separate twigs)
  • 1 slug of brandy
  • Parsley to garnish


Pre heat oven to 160c (140c fan)
Ideally you have an oval casserole and aluminium foil

  1. Layer the base of the casserole with the slices of bread.
  2. If using a cooking apple: Quarter the apple and remove the core (no need to peel the apple). Put half the apple, quartered again into the cavity of the pheasant. Chop the remaining half and scatter over the bread.
    If using eating apples: Chop one apple and press it into the cavity. Chop the other apple and scatter over the bread base.
  3. Chop three of the streaky bacon slices and scatter over the bread.
  4. If using eating apples: squeeze the lemon juice over the pheasant and rub in. Halve the squeezed lemon and place in the cavity of the bird.
  5. remove the woody bits from the thyme and scatter the leaves and soft stems onto the layer of bread. Place the three remaining slices of bacon over the breast of the bird and carefully place it breast down on the layer of bread.
  6. Pour the glass of wine over the bird.
  7. Put a piece of foil under the casserole lid to make a tight seal. Place in the centre of the preheated oven for 1.5 hours. Check to see how tender the bird is, using a fork. Bake for a further 15-20 minutes if necessary until very tender.
  8. Adjust the oven temperature 180c (160c fan) and turn the bird over, breast up. Return the casserole (without lid) to the oven to brown the bird for ten minutes.
  9. When it’s cooked splash on a glug of cooking brandy and replace the lid.
  10. Allow to stand in a warm place whilst you prepare your vegetables: mini roast potatoes, carrots and peas are ideal.
  11. Remove the pheasant to a warm place and stir your sauce well before serving.

Serve the bread, bacon and apple sauce on each plate with the pheasant, sprinkled with torn parsley leaves. We also serve the apple from inside the bird as an instant apple sauce.

Tips and tricks:

  • we now hang game for two-three days max. If it is clearly a geriatric bird we marinate the bird overnight before cooking. Juice of one lemon, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and one tablespoon of white wine. Put the bird and ingredients into a plastic bag. Squeeze out the air and pop into the fridge. No need to turn the bird in the marinade as all flesh marinades with this method.

  Leave a reply


  1. whats the diff between a slug and aglug

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Mark

    We have a post on how to pluck pheasant here.

    Pluck at room temperature if at all possible – it’s much easier.

  3. hi there just been given a couple of pheasent from a friend any ideas on how to pluck and gut them cheers mark glasgow

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Elizabeth

    It would be fine to cook the brace together. They might need cooking time though, another 30-40 minutes. You will know when you test them after an hour and a half.

  5. Elizabeth

    I have just been given a cock and hen which were shot on Wednesday and have been lying in the boot of a car since!

    Would it be okay to cook them both together and just double the quantities?

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Mick

    Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

    Great that the recipe worked for you. This is my favourite pheasant recipe and 99% of the time works really well. I love the sauce too. But the best bit of all is that it is so easy to make!

  7. Hi, and thanks for sharing this cracking recipe. I made this last night for three of us with crispy roast potatoes and it went down a treat. The sauce that is made was really tasty.
    I shot the bird the day before and hung him for 24 hours.
    Thanks again.

  8. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Dee,

    This recipe would be perfect for your pheasant crowns as the pheasant is cooked in an enclosed casserole dish.

  9. I have two skinless pheasant crown’s shot on Saturday, will this recipe work or should I go for cooking in a casserole

  10. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Trisha

    I’m still catching up with answering my Christmas comments and found yours had slipped through the net from November. Apologies.

    I’m so pleased that you liked the recipe. Thanks for dropping by!

    Hi Owen,

    We ate this on Christmas Eve. We love it too. Glad it turned out well for you.

    Hi Adrian,

    I have not coked this for more than 3 people – must give it a go for a bigger party. Hope that the inlaws enjoyed it.

    Hi Gail,

    I be interested in hearing how it turned out – flavourwise, without being hung. This sounds like a farmed bird too. As far as I know I have only eaten pheasant that has been living wild.

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