Pot roast game in wine

Pot roast game in wine

Selvaggina in umido

Helen Cathcart

Francesco at restaurant La Cantina wanted to show us his way of cooking pigeon, unfortunately he had none in the fridge. As he began to eye up one in the street the butcher arrived in the nick of time with a large quail and the street pigeon got to live another day! If you have ever roasted pheasant, partridge, rabbit, duck or quail and found it dry then you will know why I am more than happy to pot roast every time. Basically birds are not designed to be roasted. Their tough legs have higher collagen levels than their breasts so they need longer cooking. But if you get the legs rights you have probably overcooked the breast and, conversely, if the breast is juicy the legs are pink and tough. The answer? Joint the bird and cook the pieces separately or pot roast slowly until the meat falls from the bones. Italian sausages have a great flavour as they contain garlic, wine and no bread. If you omit them add a couple of garlic cloves instead.


Quantity Ingredient
2 pheasants
or 1 duck
or 4 partridges
or 6 quails
fine salt
freshly ground black pepper
1-6 sprigs thyme
6 rashers unsmoked bacon
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
30g salted butter
2 best quality italian or pork sausages, (optional)
1 white onion, roughly chopped
2 short sprigs rosemary
1 bay leaf
200ml white or madeira wine
100-200ml Vegetable stock
or 100-200ml Rita's chicken stock
or 100-200ml water


  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Season the birds generously and wrap them in the bacon enclosing 1 sprig of thyme with each one. Secure with string or a toothpick. (If you find this challenging or are not going to serve the birds whole, simply cut the rashers into quarters and put them in the pot with the thyme.) Over the hob melt the butter and oil together in a flameproof casserole (one that has a lid) and brown the birds and sausages until golden all over. Add the onions, rosemary and bay leaf. When the onions have softened pour in the wine and let it bubble for a couple of minutes. Add the stock, put on the lid and transfer to the oven. Cook for the times stated (see note) or until the meat falls from the bones easily.
  2. Remove from the oven and check the level of liquid. Serve the birds straight away with the sauce (spoon off excess fat first) if you are happy with the taste and consistency. If you have a lot of liquid remove and rest the birds in a warm place covered with foil, then reduce the sauce over the heat on the hob, strain and serve. For a fatty bird like duck spoon away the oil first and reduce the sauce. Serve with soft polenta and the strained juices from the casserole.

Cooking times for the birds

  • Quails – around 1 hour; partridges – 1 1/2 hours; pheasants – 1 3/4–2 hours; duck – 2 hours.


  • Game ragu for pasta: pick all the meat from the bones and put it back into the pot with the sauce, heat though and stir into potato gnocchi or short pasta.
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