Roasted pheasant (with garlic and bacon), caramelised sprouts, rosemary roasts, bread sauce and peach, sausage and thyme stuffing

Last week I published my frugal recipe for an Xmas starter: Smoked mackerel pate on crostini and red onion confit. Next week, I'll take you through my recipe for a frugal dessert: a lemon tart with fresh vanilla mascarpone, and, on Boxing Day, I'll reveal exactly what to do with your leftovers - turn them into a delicious pheasant massaman curry! Ingredients for these dishes can be found below, if you want to buy them up now.

But today, I'd like to take you through my recipe for a frugal main course for meat-eaters. (I've also provided a vegetarian alternative to the meat with a rich Portobello mushroom, port and stilton wellington.)

Pheasant is a great main course, as there as so much you can do the day before, and you can therefore spend a bit more of Christmas Day relaxing. Plus, pheasants take next to no time to roast, as we'll be taking the legs and wings off for use in the Boxing Day curry first.

Ingredients - The pheasant main

  • 2 x 250g packs of unsmoked streaky bacon (£3.28)
  • 2 x 398g of Porkinson sausages (£3.60)
  • 3 x whole Gressingham pheasants (£15)
  • 1 can of Tesco value peaches (27p)
  • 1 pint of whole milk (45p)
  • 500g of Brussel sprouts (£1)
  • 1.5kg of Bartlett organic potatoes (£1)
  • 25g of fresh rosemary (79p)
  • 25g of fresh lemon thyme (79p)
  • 1 bulb of garlic (25p)
  • 1 large onion (16p)
  • 1 loaf of Tesco crusty white bread (65p)

The cupboard staples...

Salt, black pepper, olive oil, cloves, sugar, bay leaf, butter and a splash of white wine.

Total cost

If you already have the cupboard staples, then according to, this trolley was cheapest at Tesco, where it came to £27.13 - that's £4.52 per head!


  • The day before we can prepare the pheasants, parboil the potatoes, make the stuffing and bread sauce. Let's start by prepping the pheasants.
  • We're after the crown of each bird with the bone in to roast, so this means removing the legs and wings from each bird. Once you have deboned place in the fridge overnight.
  • Now for the bread sauce. Place the milk in a saucepan and add a bay leaf, a pinch of salt and an onion sliced in half studded with cloves (5 cloves in each half the onion will be fine) and bring up to a simmer. Whilst the milk is infusing prepare 150g of white breadcrumbs - once the milk is up to the simmer turn off the heat and leave for 1 hour. After 1 hour take the onion and bay leaf from the milk, get back on a low heat and add the breadcrumbs, a twist of black pepper and tablespoon of butter. Stir in over a slow heat until thickened - this will take 5 minutes. Cool and place in the fridge.
  • Whilst the milk is infusing for the bread sauce, we can make the stuffing and prep the potatoes. The potatoes are very straightforward; just boil for 6 minutes in salted water, drain, shake around a bit to get some rough edges, cool and place in the fridge. I would make lots of potatoes as we're using Boxing Day as well in the curry so we need some leftovers.
  • The stuffing is next up. Take a cake or loaf tin and line with baking paper (no need to grease the paper) and set the oven to 190C - now finely chop a red onion and 2 cloves of garlic and fry off for 5 minutes until softened (make sure the garlic doesn't burn). Once softened, cool the onions and garlic down and add to a bowl along with the sausage meat (skin the sausages first), finely chopped thyme and chopped peaches. Season with a little black pepper and get your hands in to give it a good mix - now place the mixture in the loaf tin and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Once cooked just remove from the oven, cool down and place in the fridge. That's the bulk of the work done really!
  • First up, when you're ready to start cooking on Christmas day is to get the oven on at 200C and remove the pheasant crowns from the fridge. Let's start with the roast potatoes - just throw them in a roasting tin with some roughly chopped rosemary, a healthy pinch of salt and pepper and some big glugs of olive oil. These will take around 45-50 minutes to cook (if you want nice and crisp).
  • When the pheasants are up to room temperature, season and cover in a little olive oil. Get a large dish\pan on the heat (preferably a dish\pan that can also go in the oven) and seal the pheasant crowns on the breast for 3 minutes each. Once browned place 8 slices of streaky bacon over the breasts and roast for 30 minutes at 200C, adding a good splash of white wine to the dish and the garlic cloves with the skins on (around 12 will do). Baste the pheasants after 15 minutes in the oven. Once cooked remove the pheasants, loosely cover with foil and place somewhere warm (but not to warm so they carry on cooking). Keep the pan you cooked the pheasants in as we'll use for the gravy. Once the pheasants are out the oven put the stuffing in the oven to heat up.
  • Brussel sprout time! Cook the sprouts until al dente, drain and cut in half. Get a pan on the heat and add a dessert spoon of butter and a little olive oil to stop the butter burning - add the brussel sprouts, season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar and fry until slightly browned.
  • All that's left now is to heat up the bread sauce and make the gravy. The bread sauce probably thickened a bit overnight in the fridge so add a little milk before you heat up to loosen the sauce.
  • For the gravy put the pan we used to cooked the pheasants on the heat and deglaze the pan with some white wine - make sure you get all the goodness off the pan and squash down all the garlic cloves. Then add 2 pints of chicken stock and reduce down for 15 minutes. To thicken the sauce, mix together equal amounts of butter and flour (2 dessert spoons of each) into a paste and add to the pan stirring all the time. Reduce the gravy for a further 5 minutes and strain the gravy when it's at the thickness you're after. Season the gravy to taste.
  • Now to serve - remove the bacon from the breasts and carve one pheasant breast per person from the crown (save the carcasses for use on Boxing Day). For a little wow factor with the guests - I would slice the stuffing like a loaf of bread and place in the middle of each plate. Now, place a pheasant breast on top of the stuffing along with 4 slices of bacon and drizzle over some gravy.
  • Serve the other dishes on the side for everyone to help themselves (maybe with some greens or carrots as well).
  • Happy Christmas eating!

The rest of the Xmas recipes

Next Friday, I'll take you through a frugal recipe for lemon tart (with fresh vanilla mascarpone) and then on Boxing Day, I'll publish a recipe for pheasant massaman curry to use up all those leftovers.

To help you get prepared, I've put together the ingredients you'll need for the rest of our Xmas menu!

Ingredients - The dessert
  • 4 lemons (92p)
  • 250ml of double cream (73p)
  • 250g of Italian mascarpone (£1.18)
  • 6 Tesco medium free range eggs (£1.42)
  • 1 fresh vanilla pod (£1.44)
  • 1 pack (500g) of caster sugar (68p)
  • 1 block (500g) of sweet shortcrust pastry (89p)

The cupboard staples...

Icing sugar and a dash of milk.

Ingredients - The Massaman curry

  • 1 large white onion (16p)
  • 1 lime (20p)
  • 2 cans (400ml each) of coconut milk (98p)
  • 1 105g Bart Massaman paste (£1.75)
  • 500g of Tesco easy cook rice (64p)

The cupboard staples\leftovers...

Salt, black pepper, olive oil, peanut butter, brown sugar, fish sauce, potatoes (leftover from Christmas day) , pheasant legs and wings and the carcasses.