Burnetts Woodcock

My friends Jane and George, to whom this dish is dedicated, are known as the Dona-kebabs because they gave me a sheep for my fiftieth birthday and called it Kebab to guard against sentimentality. George is a keen shot and is always looking for different ways of preparing woodcock. You can use wood pigeon if you are not so fortunate.


  • 4 woodcock, properly hung
  • 115g/4oz butter
  • 1 rasher of bacon per bird

For The Potato Cakes

  • 750g/lb waxy potatoes
  • 2 egg whites and 1 yolk
  • 1 tbsp capers, chopped
  • 150ml/¼ pint whipping cream
  • 25g/1oz butter

For the Sauce

  • 4 pigeon livers (use pheasant or chicken if not available)
  • 55g/2oz butter small glass white wine
  • 2 tbsp beef stock
  • 10 juniper berries, crushed
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • squeeze of lemon juice


First make the potato cakes. Boil the potatoes, mash them and let them dry well. Beat the egg whites very stiffly but not dry. Mix the egg yolk and capers and cream into the mash and fold in the egg whites. Form small cakes and fry in the butter until brown.

Spread each woodcock generously with butter and cover with a bacon rasher. Roast in a preheated very hot oven at 220°C/425°F/Gas 7 for 10–15 minutes, depending on how you like them, more if you must.

For the sauce, sauté the livers in butter until just cooked, mash and sieve them. Put the purée in a pan, thin with white wine and stock, add juniper berries, seasoning and lemon juice, and simmer for a few minutes.

Place the cooked woodcock on the potato cakes and serve with the sauce.