Pot Roast Pheasant with Bacon

These days, pheasants are intensively farmed and fattened up before the corporate shoots, leading to lacklustre and flavourless birds. They seem to have lost their lean gamy characteristics over the years. If you do get the chance, however, buy a brace of hens with pliable breastbones (a normal sign of age, as the stiffer the breastbone the older the bird). The result will be well worth it.

Ingredients

  • Knob of butter
  • 2 hen pheasants
  • Splash of neutral-flavoured oil, such as groundnut
  • 8 slices of streaky bacon
  • 4 juniper berries, crushed
  • 2 sprigs of sage
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Sprig of thyme
  • 100 ml sweet cider

Method

Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas 3½.

In a heavy-based pan big enough to hold the 2 birds (and which has a lid), colour the birds all over in the butter and oil. Remove and reserve.

Throw the bacon into the pan, followed by the rest of the ingredients except the cider and lightly colour. Add the cider and bring to the boil.

Add the pheasants on their sides, cover with the lid and cook in the preheated oven for 8 minutes. Take out and turn the birds over on to the other side, then cover and cook for a further 8 minutes (the covering both speeds up the cooking and also keeps the birds moist). Check to see if they’re cooked: a gentle squeeze of the breast at the thickest point (towards the winglets) should indicate this. Baste with all the juices until ready to serve.

Serve the birds with the bacon and some of the pan juices.