Play the game

Anna Hedworth, aka The Grazer, presents a festive dish of juniper and wood-smoked potted pheasant. How nice!

During the game season, I tend to be given a lot of pheasant. There is sometimes duck, more rarely a partridge or a grouse, and very rarely a woodcock.

So come this time of year, faced with lots of pheasant filling up a freezer which needs room for Christmas, I’m often looking for inventive ways of serving it.

Roast pheasant can dry out and doesn’t do the bird justice really. It’s better in a casserole or pie, I think. I’ve made a pheasant salmis in the past – a lovely French dish with a rich truffle sauce. I have also, a few times, attempted a St. John pheasant and trotter pie, which is delicious but it takes hours and hours to do. As a result, each time I’ve become so frustrated and annoyed making it I’ve vowed never to go there again.
Pheasant is one of the milder game birds, the wallflower of the game world, I suppose. I prefer partridge and woodcock because they really up the gamey level. Or I did, that is, until I thought of potting pheasant, or to be more precise, smoking it,
confit-ing it and then potting it.
That may sound daunting, but it isn’t, I promise.

The best way to eat this potted pheasant is either slightly warmed or at room temperature on hot toast with butter and a scatter of capers. I also like a little bit of cucumber pickle on the side (see my blog for a recipe). It’s so delicious, the meat is soft and tender and smoky and the thyme and butter really add to the flavours. It’s changed my view of pheasant no end… Call this my Christmas present to you – enjoy it!

Juniper and wood-smoked potted pheasant
Serves: 4
  • 1 pheasant
  • hickory and applewood chips
  • a few crushed juniper berries
  • 350g jar duck or goose fat
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 25g butter
  • ½ lemon
  • salt and pepper
  1. I smoke the pheasant in my smoker, which I call Mr Smokerson (you can see him on my blog – he’s very handsome, so do look) for 2 hours - the whole bird, with a mix of hickory and apple wood and some juniper berries. If you don’t have a smoker roast the whole pheasant for 20 mins in a hot oven instead.
  2. To confit, joint the pheasant, place it in a pot in which it fits snugly and pour over 350g of warm duck or goose fat (a standard size jar per bird). You want the fat to cover the bird as much as possible. Add a bay leaf and a bunch of thyme, and if you haven’t smoked the meat add a few crushed juniper berries. Then roast at
  3. C/Gas 2 for 1-1½ hours until the meat is soft and falling off the bone. When it’s done, take it out of the fat and leave to cool. You can keep the fat in a jar in the fridge and use it again, but reserve some to pour over the top of the finished pheasant. Then shred the meat into tiny pieces. This is best done by hand so you can discard any bits of bone, skin or fat, and you get a nice irregular coarse texture rather than the pâté texture you get if you blitz it. Add a little of the melted fat now and again to keep it from drying out and add quite a few fresh thyme leaves and some pepper. Then melt 25g of butter per bird and the juice of half a lemon and add this all to the meat. Finally, pack the meat into a jar or small pots and pour over a thin layer of the melted fat, just enough to cover. This will keep for a few months in the fridge. I find that one bird makes two regular jars. You can use this method with a range of other meats. I have made potted duck previously, and you can also try pork in the same way, or rabbit. Delicious!


Sign up to our news
You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us.