Season's finest November/December with Antony Worrall Thompson

Season's Finest November/December

With Antony Worrall Thompson

Pot roasted pheasant with cider and bacon


1 tablespoon vegetable oil 

85g/3oz unsalted butter

2 hen pheasants

8 smoked dry-cured streaky bacon rashers, rinds removed

4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

2 thyme sprigs

6 juniper berries, crushed

2 bay leaves

Salt and ground black pepper

150ml/1/4 pint traditional dry cider

1 Cox’s apple, peeled, cored and diced


With the shortening of the nights in November and December I find there is nothing more comforting than a nice stew or pot roast – some genuine slow cooking.  And there are some unbeatable British ingredients which are on offer now.  Carrots, celeriac, cabbage, chestnut, kale, leeks, so see what there is on offer – the prices will be good too.  Root vegetables have been found to lower cholesterol and blood pressure so as long as you don’t boil or cook the life out of them – help yourself to a large portion.  The game season is well and truly underway so pheasants are at their prime now.  Originally native to the Far East we have grown to know and love these tasty game birds which are full of protein and low in fat.    

There really is no need to hike up those food miles with what we have on offer.  I’m giving you one of my favourite dishes, pot-roasted pheasant with cider and bacon.  It’s a traditional French way of keeping the bird moist by cooking it in some alcohol such as cider or Calvados.  Add an addition of good friends and cheer and this is a dish to lift your spirits.  If you didn’t fancy a pheasant then using a poussin or even a couple of partridges works just as well.


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4.

2. Put the vegetable oil and 25g/1 oz butter (place the rest in the fridge) in a large flameproof casserole over a medium heat and brown the pheasants all over.  Remove and set them aside.  Then add the bacon, garlic, thyme, juniper and bay leaves to the casserole and brown the bacon.  Pour in the cider and bring to the boil.

3. Place the pheasants on their side on one breast in the casserole, cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes.  Take out and turn the pheasants onto their other side.  Baste the birds with the juices, cover and return to the oven for 10 minutes.  Remove the pheasants and bacon to rest and keep warm.

4. Add the diced apple to the casserole and boil until the apple is tender (about 5 minutes).  Cut the remaining cold butter into small pieces and whisk in.

5. Carve the birds and give everyone a breast and thigh and two bacon rashers.  Spoon over the juices and serve with Savoy cabbage and buttery mash.

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