Pheasant & chestnut casserole

Note: Feeds 4–6. We serve with mashed potatoes.


  • 2 pheasants
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange rind
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4 large streaky bacon slices
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 (or more) garlic cloves, crushed
  • 6oz/175g button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1lb/450g chestnuts, blanched, peeled and skinned (we use 200g or more of pre-prepared chestnuts)
  • 8fl.oz/250ml chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons port (or red wine—any port in a storm)
  • 1 tablespoon beurre manié (i.e. equal weights of soft butter and plain flour, mixed into a smooth paste)


  1. Rub pheasants inside and out with salt and pepper.
  2. Mix orange rind and thyme in saucer and sprinkle into pheasant cavities.
  3. Lay 2 bacon slices across the breasts of either pheasant. Truss pheasants with string (to keep bacon in place) and set aside.
  4. In large frying pan (we use our flame-proof casserole), melt butter with oil over a moderate heat. It will begin to foam. When the foaming subsides, add pheasants and fry, turning frequently, for 6–8 minutes, or until golden brown all over.
  5. Remove pheasants from frying pan/casserole. Set aside.
  6. Add onion and garlic to frying pan/casserole and fry, stirring occasionally, for 5–7 minutes, or until onion is soft and translucent but not brown.
  7. Add mushrooms and chestnuts and fry, stirring frequently, for a further 5 minutes.
  8. Remove frying pan/casserole from heat. If you used a frying pan to fry the onions, etc., place the pheasants in a casserole, then, using a slotted spoon, transfer the contents of the frying pan (without any excess liquid) to the casserole and arrange them around the pheasant. If you used a casserole to fry the onions, etc., drain off any excess liquid, then add the pheasants to the casserole, nestling them in amongst the other contents.
  9. Pour chicken stock and orange juice into the casserole and add the bay leaf.
  10. Set the casserole over a moderate heat and bring the liquid to the boil, stirring constantly.
  11. Reduce the heat to low, cover the casserole, and simmer for 1 hour, or until pheasants are cooked. (To test if cooked, pierce one of the thighs with the point of a sharp knife or skewer—the juices should run clear.)
  12. Remove pheasants from casserole. Remove and discard the string and bacon. Place pheasants on serving dish.
  13. Remove vegetables and chestnuts from casserole using a slotted spoon. Arrange them around the pheasants on serving dish. Keep warm.
  14. Strain the cooking juices from the casserole into a medium-sized saucepan. Discard the contents of the strainer.
  15. Stir port/red wine into saucepan and set over a moderate heat.
  16. Bring the sauce to the boil, stirring constantly.
  17. Stir in the beurre manié, a small piece at a time, until the sauce is thick and smooth.
  18. Pour sauce over pheasants and serve immediately (ideally with mashed potatoes).

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