About this recipe:As pheasant has very little fat, wrapping it in Parma ham helps to prevent it from drying out, as well as adding flavour. For a healthy and delicious accompaniment, the birds are roasted on top of leeks and lentils.
2 pheasants, about 900 g (2 lb) each
1/2 orange, halved
1 onion, quartered
4 tsp Dijon mustard
4 sprigs of fresh sage
4 thin slices Parma ham
225 g (8 oz) Puy lentils
200 g (7 oz) leeks, sliced
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 garlic clove, crushed
75 g (2 1/2 oz) ready-to-eat dried apricots, quartered
250 ml (8 1/2 fl oz) dry cider
600 ml (1 pint) chicken stock, or more if needed, preferably home-made
sprigs of fresh thyme and sage
1 orange, quartered
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Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F, gas mark 6). Stuff each bird with a piece of orange and 2 onion quarters. Spread 2 tsp of mustard over the breast of each bird and top with a sprig of sage. Wrap with 2 slices of Parma ham and tie on with string.
Put the lentils into a large oval roasting dish with the leeks, the remaining 2 sage sprigs, the thyme sprigs, garlic and apricots. Set the pheasants on top and pour over the cider and 300 ml (10 fl oz) of the chicken stock. Roast for 40 minutes.
Heat the remaining stock to boiling and pour over the pheasants. Return to the oven to roast for a further 30–40 minutes, covering with foil to prevent the Parma ham from drying out.
Remove the birds from the lentils and test to see if they are cooked by piercing the leg with a sharp knife. The juices that run out should be clear; roast for a little longer if necessary. Set the pheasants aside to rest while you finish cooking the lentils.
Stir the lentil mixture. If it seems a little dry, add up to 150 ml (5 fl oz) more hot stock. Return to the oven to cook for a further 10–15 minutes or until the lentils are tender.
Carve the pheasants and serve on a bed of lentils, garnished with thyme and sage sprigs and orange wedges.