The Cottage Smallholder

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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.

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  1. Ernie Herridge

    sorry for not getting back to you sooner. the gypsy style pheasant was brill.we will be having another regards ernie.

  2. trawling through pheasant recipes, and found your lovely site! will try the gypsy recipe at the weekend but my lazy husband now only takes the breast off and throws the rest, so will let you know how “supreme of pheasant” works in this dish

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Pippa

    You can cook more than one pheasant at a time. You just need a bigger casserole dish. My mum gave us a whopper last year, that can hold three pheasant. Try and locate one/borrow one as this will do the trick for your dinner party.

    If you have a starter and a pud I reckon that you could get away with two pheasant.

    I’d never cook this dish the day before. I might cook it and keep it warm for an hour. It’s a very kind recipe.

  4. This is the first time I have cooked pheasant. I stuck strictly to the recipe and the result was fantastic. The meat was tender and the sauce was absolutely delicious.

    If I wanted to do this for a dinner party (say 6 people) how would you double (or even treble) the recipe since you do not recommend cooking more than one bird in the pot? Would you cook the dish the day before?

    Thanks for a really excellent recipe.

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Caroline

    Thanks for taking the time to drop by and leave this comment.

    I think that this is a good recipe for people who don’t want a really gamey in your face sort of pheasant dish. I can eat it all through the season and never tire of it.

    Also the pheasant doesn’t seem to dry out even if you have skinned rather than plucked it.

  6. Caroline


    Just wanted to add my thanks for this beautiful recipe. My partner adores pheasant, but I have never been keen… Until now.

    I found the recipe last week, so we had a pheasant for Sunday dinner. Guess what we’re having again today? I’m already booked to cook it for my folks too.

    Thanks – you’ve made me a pheasant convert!

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Jo

    Thanks so much for dropping by.

    How sad that your sister died. It must make Christmas an especially sad time.

    I do hope that the pheasant dish worked out well for you.

    We’d love to meet you when you are in Cambridgeshire, if you have a slot! Cambridgshire is a massive county and you may be miles away. I’ll email you in the next day or so!

  8. Jo @ LittleFfarm Dairy

    Hi Fiona –

    like you, we have our Christmas family traditions – & my parents have almost always enjoyed a brace of roast pheasant, on Boxing Day. There was a departure from this for a few short years when they’d visit my sister in Stoneleigh Village to watch the traditional Mummers & then join everyone for a magnificent feast of baked salmon which she cooked; but after Melissa tgically & unexpectedly died a couple of years ago, Mum & Dad now spend Christmas here with us.

    Luckily, Tony’s home for Christmas & New Year, this year: although we can already accurately predict that in 2009 it’s likely there will sadly be an empty seat at the festive table.

    So in Melissa’s much-missed absence, we’ve revived the original tradition of our brace of pheasants for Boxing Day lunch. This year, for something a little special & a little different (& a little easier for me, having spent the entire day yesterday slaving over a hot stove interspersed with the early & late chores as ever, plus the inevitable mountain of washing up -as I do the whole darn lot) I’m following your Normandy Gypsy’s Pot Roast Pheasant recipe….& tomorrow I’m taking your advice again & will be cooking a delicious goosey-game pie as a delightful alternative to the usual tired alternatives. So, thank you for spicing up our Christmas menu – I’ll let you know how we get on…!

    But thank goodness, we have a capacious walk-in Cold Store as well as several massive freezers; they’re all groaning with the wonderful goodies Mum & Dad have supplied for the ultimate Christmas feast.

    Incidentally we’ll be in Cambridgeshire on 30th/31st December – would you like me to drop you off some of our lovely gelato as a ‘thank you’, if we get a chance….? Send me an email if you’re going to be around & fancy something tasty for your New Year’s Eve dessert, it’d be our pleasure & great to meet you as well.

    Best wishes – Jo, Tony & Ffarm Fach menagerie.

  9. Hi

    I tried this recipe last night. I was very impressed. This is the first time I have tried cooking pheasant. I picked one up from the local farmers market at the weekend. I think I will be doing this again. I look forward to reading your other recipes and putting them into practice.



  10. Fiona Nevile

    Hi David

    No I don’t think that you can pre cook this dish. You can keep it warm for ages but I wouldn’t try pre cooking it.

    We do have a brilliant pheasant dish that reheats well and is sometimes better than this dish. If you don’t have access to venison, pigeon breasts or any other game would work well. Take a peek here

    All the rest of our pheasant dishes would reheat well. The pheasant with grapes is a favourite too. Very delicate and surprisingly good

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