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Pheasant - Roast

A really traditional British game dish, that's easy to prepare. Ideal served with Bread Sauce, game crumbs, watercress and a light gravy flavoured with dry Sherry or Port.
Game birds are almost as easy to cook as a roast chicken, but because of their healthy lack of fat need a little help to keep them succulent - hence the fromage frais and streaky bacon.

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For 4 generous helpings:

2 pheasants - it's easier to judge the cooking times of either 2 hen's or two cocks, as both birds will then be the same size (cock's are bigger, hen's considered to be more moist)
2 heaped tablespoons (30ml) full-fat fromage frais
4 sprigs of fresh Thyme
2 small sprigs of fresh Rosemary
50g/2 oz Butter at room temperature
6 rashers of streaky bacon
Salt and freshly-ground Black Pepper

Game Crumbs:
50g/2 oz slightly-stale white breadcrumbs
25g/1 oz Butter

1 rounded tablespoon (15ml) Plain Flour
850ml/1½ pints Chicken or Game Stock
120ml/4 fl oz Dry Sherry or Port
Salt and freshly-ground Black Pepper


1. If the birds are trussed, loosen the strings and push half the fromage frais into the stomach cavity of each bird, follow with the sprigs of thyme and rosemary. If they're not trussed, don't worry - trussing is only really necessary if you have to keep a perfect shape.
2. Ease the strings back into place, if necessary.
3. Heat the oven to 200°/400°/Gas 6.
4. Season the skin of each bird with pepper, then rub butter over the breasts.
5. Drape the streaky bacon over the breast sections - 3 rashers on each bird.
6. Secure the rashers with a piece of kitchen string.
7. Place the pheasants on their sides in a roasting tin, and when the oven is hot, roast them for 15 minutes for turning them onto their other side for a further 15 minutes. This method helps keeps the breasts moist. Baste the birds with the pan juices each time you turn the birds.
8. Next, remove the bacon rashers, and set aside, and sit them breast-side-up and roast for a final 15 minutes for hen birds, 20-25 minutes for cocks.
9. Test by sticking a sharp knife in the thickest part of the thigh. The juices should run clear - if they are still a little pink, roast for a further 5-10 minutes.
10. While the pheasants are cooking make the Bread Sauce and fry the game crumbs.
11. To fry the crumbs, simply melt the butter in a heavy pan and fry the crumbs over a medium heat, stirring constantly. When they are crisp and golden, tip them into a bowl lined with kitchen paper. Set aside.
12. Remove the pheasants from the roasting tin and allow then to rest, covered with tin foil to retain their heat, for the few minutes it will take you to make the gravy.
13. Put the roasting tin with its fat over a very low heat and stir the flour into the pan juices; the gradually mix in the stock (stirring all the time) and bring to the boil. If any lumps developed, they can generally be whisked out.
14. Add the Sherry or Port and simmer for a further 2 minutes.
15. Season the sauce to taste. You might not need much salt - this will depend on the saltiness of the stock. Strain the stock into a sauce boat.
16. Carve the pheasants, sprinkle with game crumbs and with a little watercress.

Serve straight away with the bread sauce and red currant jelly.
See Bread Sauce in our Recipe section.

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