Festive Pheasants

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Cooking for Christmas

Cooking for Christmas

By Josceline Dimbleby

Published 1978

  • About

Here is a delectable dish for a big dinner or Christmas lunch party. If possible try to seat everyone: food is so much more enjoyable when you don’t have to stand balancing your plate precariously, unable to concentrate properly either on eating or taking. In this recipe, which has a mild Anglo-Indian flavour, pheasant joints are marinated with yogurt and spices to a mouthwatering tenderness. The creamy, aromatic sauce goes perfectly with a large bowl of Indian basmati rice. Other than that I just serve a salad so it is an easy meal to prepare and serve despite the large quantity. To those who say that pheasants are dull birds I can only reply that this way of cooking them may change their minds. If you are worried about cutting the pheasants into smallish joints I find it very easy if I use a large, sharp knife and then a hammer to bang it through the bird. Noisy but effective! You do need to start this recipe 2-3 day before you want to serve it.


  • 4 pheasants
  • 3-inch (7.5 cm) piece of fresh ginger
  • 4-5 large garlic cloves
  • 3-4 green chillies
  • 8 oz (250 g) natural yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml spoon) ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons (2 x 5 ml spoons) ground cinnamon
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons (2 x 15 ml spoons) white wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons (4 x 15 ml spoons) tomato purée
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml spoon) black onion seed, if available
  • ¾ pint (450 ml) double cream
  • a bunch of fresh coriander leaves
  • sea salt


Joint the pheasants

I like to make six joints of each bird. Cut them in half first and then cut off the legs. Divide the remaining pieces in half. Put them into a very large casserole dish (or use a jam-making pan that has a lid). Peel the ginger and garlic and chop them together finely. Cut open the chillies under running water, discard the seeds and then chop the flesh finely, in a mixing bowl put the yogurt, the ground spices, the lemon juice, the vinegar and the tomato purée. Add the chopped ginger, garlic and chillies and the black onion seeds if using them. Mix thoroughly and then add the mixture to the dish of pheasants and smear well onto each joint (it is best to do this with your hands, though messy). Cover the dish and leave in a cool place until next day or even the day after, turning the joints around in the marinade two or three times.

Heat the oven to Gas Mark 9/475°F/240°C. Put the covered dish in the oven for 1¼-1½ hours. Have one very large or two smaller, wide, fairly shallow dishes ready and warmed. Using a slotted spatula, remove the pieces of pheasant and arrange them on the serving dishes. Pour off some of the fat from the casserole and then pour the cream into the cooking juices. Stir, bring to the boil and simmer, stirring for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add salt to taste. Pull the leaves off the coriander stems, Before serving spoon the cream sauce over the pheasants joints and sprinkle with coriander leaves all over.