Murgh makhani with pheasant

Pheasant curry….

Occasionally if I’m lucky a friend who shoots game in the autumn will land me a couple of pheasants.
It’s a doubled edged sword in that I love the idea of wild sustainable meat but dread the plucking and drawing it takes to get them oven ready.
I remember as a boy my mother bringing some home and my father being confined to a garden room to pluck them.
He couldn’t bring himself to eat them with any appetite and so I also feel so the prepared birds often end up in the freezer.
As more birds are likely on the horizon I decided to make space in my freezer and looked for a recipe which might offer something other than delicious but traditional game chips and bread sauce.
This curry is great because by roasting on the bone you pick up extra flavour and is similar in style to traditional Indian food.
Rich and spice filled.
Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall writing in the garden offered a version of this recipe, I’ve simply reduced the quantities.
It’s delicious and warming but worth noting you need to marinade overnight for best flavours.

2 pheasants, jointed (breasts off, legs and wings separated, discard carcass)

For the tikka marinade
One tsp salt
Two tbsp thick yoghurt
Juice of one lime
One tbsp garam masala
Two tsp chilli powder
Two tsp ground coriander
Two tsp ground mixed spice
Two tsp ground fenugreek
One golf ball-sized piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
Four large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped, or more if they are small
Two tbsp of oil for roasting, left over frying oil fine or sunflower or groundnut
Three or four green chillies (depending on size and heat), finely chopped
For the tomato sauce
400g tin chopped tomatoes
small nugget fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
One small green chillies, depending on heat, finely chopped
Five cloves
One tsp salt
100ml water

To finish
60g butter
One tsp ground cumin
One tsp tomato purée
Two tsp honey
100ml double cream
One tbsp fenugreek
One tbsp lime juice
Half tsp freshly ground black pepper
Coriander leaves, to garnish (optional)


1)In a large bowl, mix together the marinade ingredients, add the pheasant joints, with your hands ensure they’re well coated, and leave to marinate overnight in the fridge.

2)Put all the ingredients for the sauce in a large pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring regularly, until nicely thickened. Rub through a sieve or liquidise and set to one side.

3)Heat the oven to 230C. Transfer the pheasant legs to a roasting tin, along with some of the marinade, cover with a piece of buttered foil and roast for 15 minutes. Add the breasts to the tin, give everything a good stir, lower the heat to 200C and cook for 20 minutes.

4)To complete the sauce, melt the butter in a large pan, add the ground cumin and sizzle gently for a minute. Add the tomato sauce, bring back to a simmer and cook for five minutes. Add the tomato purée, honey, cream, fenugreek, lime juice and black pepper, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for five minutes, until the sauce is thick, rich and creamy. Finally, add the pheasant, mix well and warm through, simmering gently for five minutes. Serve with basmati rice and scatter with coriander leaves, if using.