Old English Spiced Pheasants with Onions and Walnuts

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Cooking for Christmas

Cooking for Christmas

By Josceline Dimbleby

Published 1978

  • About

People are always asking me for different ways to cook pheasant. I created this dish for an old friend’s seventieth birthday party. Spices go well with game and this combination of spices, onions, prunes and walnuts is particularly good; if you can use sweet red onions, all the better. You can increase the quantities for a buffet party. A red cabbage make a good accompaniment.


  • 2 teaspoons (2 x 5 ml spoons) black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons (2 x 5 ml spoons) allspice berries
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml spoon) cloves
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml spoon) mace blades
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml spoon) caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (2 x 15 ml spoons) red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml spoon) olive or sunflower oil
  • 2 large pheasants
  • lb (750 g) onions, sliced in rings
  • 4 oz (125 g) walnut pieces
  • 4 oz (125 g) pitted prunes, quartered
  • 6-7 fl oz (175-210 ml) dry sherry or cider
  • butter


In a coffee grinder, or using a pestle and motar, grind up the peppercorns and spices. Mix them in a bowl with the caster sugar, the vinegar and the oil. Smear this mixture all over the pheasants. Put them in a large roasting pan, cover them with foil and leave in a cool place or the fridge for several hours or overnight.

Spread the onion rings over the bottom of the roasting pan; add the pheasants, together with the walnut pieces, quartered prunes and sherry or cider. Dot generously with butter and cover the dish with foil. Heat the oven to Gas Mark 5/375°F/190°C. Cook in the centre of the oven for 1½-1¾ hours. Remove the foil from the dish for the last 15 minutes of cooking time. Serve the onion mixture and juices in a bowl to spoon over the individual plates of carved pheasant; or for easier serving at a buffet party you can mix the carved slices with the onion mixture and serve together in a large, open serving dish.