Pot-roast pheasant with pearl barley & stuffed onions

Contains pork – recipe is for non-Muslims only
If you’re cooking to impress, up your game with Tom’s perfect poultry dish for a sensational, seasonal supper for two

  • Prep:40 mins
    Cook:2 hrs
  • Serves 2
  • More effort

Nutrition per serving

  • kcal 1199
  • fat 59g
  • saturates 13g
  • carbs 67g
  • sugars 28g
  • fibre 13g
  • protein 75g
  • salt 1.6g


  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 large pheasant crown (legs removed and kept for the stuffing – see below)
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and diced
  • 50g pearl barley
  • 200ml dry cider
  • 400ml fresh chicken stock
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 100g small wild mushrooms or chestnut mushrooms, quartered if large
  • 1 Braeburn apple, peeled and chopped into small cubes
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 small onions (just bigger than a golf ball), peeled but left whole
  • 2 pheasant legs, bones removed and minced with the skin (ask your butcher to do this – see tip)
  • 50g pork sausagemeat
  • 2 juniper berries, toasted and crushed
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
  • 50g sprout tops or cavolo nero, stalks removed
  • small pinch of ground mace
  • 1 tbsp grated chestnuts
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 3 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • zest ½ lemon
  • 6 sage leaves, fried until crisp, to serve


At the butcher's

For this recipe, order one large pheasant and ask for it to be butchered so that the legs and crown are separate. The legs then need to be boned and minced with sausagemeat – you could do this yourself or, given a bit of notice, the butcher should be able to do it for you.

Buy the best

The pheasant season runs from September to February, and the younger the bird, the more tender the meat will be. That’s not to say that a pheasant in February is going to be tough – the flavour will be the same, but it will be better suited to casseroles and stews rather than roasts. Whenever you buy it, you want a pheasant that has been cleanly shot, without any large patches of bruising.

Pheasant legs

If you’ve ever seen a pheasant in the wild, you’ll know that they do a lot of running around. This means that their leg meat is full of sinew, which is tough when roasted, so is only really suitable for slow cooking or – as I’ve done here – mincing into a stuffing.



  1. First, start to make the stuffed onions. Heat oven to 140C/120C fan/gas 1. Lay the whole onions on a large sheet of foil and wrap up to make a parcel. Cook for 1 hr 30 mins or until soft, then remove and leave to cool. Turn up the oven to 180C/160 fan/gas 4.

  2. While the onions are roasting, heat a medium flameproof casserole dish and add 1 tbsp oil. When the dish is hot, add the pheasant crown and brown on the skin side, then set aside. Add the remaining oil and the onion and fry for 10 mins until soft and starting to brown. Add the garlic and parsnip, cook for a few mins, then add the pearl barley and cider. Simmer until the cider has reduced by half, then pour in the chicken stock and keep on a low simmer for 15-20 mins.

  3. Remove and discard the core from the baked onions using a teaspoon, making them hollow but still keeping them intact. In a mixing bowl, mix all the stuffing ingredients and season. Spoon the stuffing into the hollow onions, making sure that they are full. Roll any extra stuffing into small balls.

  4. Add the pheasant crown and any balls to the simmering barley and sprinkle with a little salt, then add the stuffed onions and thyme. Cover with a lid and put in the oven for 20 mins.

  5. To make the salsa, bring a pan of salted water to the boil and blanch the sprout tops until they are just soft, then plunge them into a bowl of iced water. Drain the leaves and squeeze out any excess water, then chop roughly. Add them to the small bowl of a food processor, along with the mace, chestnuts, garlic, rapeseed oil and lemon zest, and blitz until it becomes a rough salsa texture. Add a little seasoning to taste.

  6. Once the pheasant is cooked, remove the dish from the oven and transfer the pheasant to a plate to rest. Cover loosely with foil. Return the barley to the heat and stir in the mushrooms, apple and parsley – using the mixture to baste the stuffed onions. When it becomes a rich and reasonably thick stew, remove from the heat.

  7. Remove the breasts from the crown with a sharp knife and trim a little to neaten them. Spoon the pearl barley onto a large serving bowl or plate, put the pheasant breast on top and serve with the braised onions and extra meatballs. To finish the dish, add a large spoonful of the salsa and sprinkle over the crispy sage leaves.

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