Brined roast pheasant with sage, pancetta and marsala gravy

Brined roast pheasant with sage, pancetta and marsala gravy
  • Serves icon Serves 4
  • Time icon Hands-on time 20 min, oven time 30-35 min, plus 2-6 hours brining

Chef Jacob Kenedy shows us how to perfectly cook a pheasant. First it’s brined, then roasted with butter and sage, then served with pancetta, root vegetables and a sweet marsala sauce. It’s great for a dinner party or special occasion.

Nutrition: per serving

Calories
847kcals
Fat
59.1g (29.5g saturated)
Protein
50.1g
Carbohydrates
11.1g (10.3g sugars)
Fibre
7.9g
Salt
3.7g
Calories
847kcals
Fat
59.1g (29.5g saturated)
Protein
50.1g
Carbohydrates
11.1g (10.3g sugars)
Fibre
7.9g
Salt
3.7g

Ingredients

  • 2 pheasants, about 500g each, gutted and cleaned
  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 4 fresh sage sprigs
  • 300g carrots, cut into 4cm chunks
  • 300g parsnips, cut into 4cm chunks
  • 12 thin slices pancetta or streaky bacon, or 4-6 slices prosciutto
  • 200ml dry or medium marsala or sherry

For the brine

  • 200g sugar (caster, granulated, or light brown)
  • 200g fine sea salt
  • 20 black peppercorns
  • 10 juniper berries
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2kg crushed ice

You’ll also need… 

  • Digital probe thermometer

Method

  1. First brine the birds: put the brine ingredients (apart from the ice) into a large stainless-steel (non-reactive) stockpot with 2 litres cold water. Bring to the boil over a medium-high heat, then turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Add the ice, then the pheasants and cover with cling film. Chill for 6 hours.
  2. Heat the oven to 240°C/220°C fan/gas 9. Drain the pheasants (discard the brine), pat them dry with kitchen paper and put in a large roasting tin. Stuff each bird’s cavity with 50g butter and 2 sage sprigs. Season with pepper (no salt, because of the brine). Surround the birds with the chopped vegetables, evenly spaced so as not to crowd the tin. Put the tin in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 4.
  3. Roast for 15 minutes, then remove the tin and lay the pancetta (or bacon or prosciutto) over them to cover, overlapping slightly. Don’t worry about the underside of the birds. Return the tin to the oven and roast for 15 minutes more until the meat reads 65°C in the thickest part of the breast when tested with a digital probe thermometer (or the juices running between leg and breast are barely pink). If the birds aren’t yet fully cooked, return the roasting tin to the oven for 5 minutes more. Once cooked, remove from the oven and set the birds aside to rest while you make the gravy.
  4. Put the roasting tin with the vegetables on the hob over a high heat, add the marsala or sherry and boil for 5 minutes until reduced by about half. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to stir in any sticky goodness. Stir in the remaining butter, then reduce for a further 5 minutes until the sauce has a thin, pouring consistency.
  5. Carve the pheasants, then serve with the veg and the sauce. Or carve the birds at the table for more drama and less fuss in the kitchen.

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