Pheasant and Leek Pie

pheasant and leek pie

I got the idea for a pheasant and leek pie via Scottish Cock-a-leekie soup, or cockie leekie (circa 1598), which probably came from a French chicken and onion dish. Old recipes included beef shin and prunes, but I thought a thickened version, minus cows and fruit, with pheasant as a substitute for chicken would taste good under pastry. You will note that I also dispensed with barley, which in my humble opinion is better suited to a broth.

browned pheasant

Using a cast iron casserole, brown a large pheasant in olive oil, to caramelise the sugars in the meat and skin.

Stock recipe:

1 large pheasant
6 pieces garlic (peeled and bruised)
3 leek tops
1 large carrot
1 stick of celery
a bouquet garni of 2 bay leaves and a sprig or two of rosemary, sage and thyme
10 black peppercorns
6 crushed juniper berries
olive oil
ground sea salt
2 pints water


When the pheasant is a nice golden colour, remove the olive oil and save for later. Fill the pot with the stock ingredients listed above – use the tops of the leeks for the stock and save the lower, better parts for the pie filling. Bring to the boil, skim off any scum, put the lid on and remove to a preheated oven at 150º C for 1 hour. Turn the bird half way through.


When done, remove the pheasant and allow to cool. Strain the stock and throw away the depleted vegetables. When the bird has cooled, remove the meat from the skin and bones. Chop the pheasant up into bite sized pieces.

While the stock is cooking in the oven, make some pastry (recipe here) and allow it to chill in the fridge.

Pheasant and Leek Pie recipe (serves 4):

1 large pheasant (poached and chopped into bite sized pieces)
3 slices smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
3 leeks (sliced)
1 stick celery (chopped)
6 pieces garlic (finely chopped)
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 1/2 pints pheasant stock
2 large squirts anchovy paste
1 dessertspoon tomato purée
1 dessertspoon plain flour
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 heaped teaspoons French mustard
2 bay leaves
lots of cracked black pepper (to taste)
Sea salt if required
olive oil


Using the reserved olive oil, fry the chopped bacon until it goes crispy.


Add the leeks, which I sliced quite thin (about 5mm).

softened leeks

Cook the leeks gently for 20 minutes or so, until they become soft and sticky. Attentive stirring is required.


Mix in the carrot, celery and garlic.


After 5 minutes stir in the flour to make a roux.


Pour on about 1 1/2 pints of stock and combine with all the remaining ingredients (except the pheasant) – mix well.

chopped pheasant

Finally add the meat and bring the dish up to a simmer. Put the lid on the casserole and remove to a preheated oven at 150º C for an hour.


The casserole should have thickened up well, do taste and adjust the seasoning at this point.


Allow the pie filling to cool before rolling out the pastry – this will be quicker spread out in the pie dish, but do rub it with butter first. I’m only using a pastry lid for the pie (that’s sufficient carbohydrates for me), but should you feel inclined, make twice as much pastry and make sure the filling is cold before pouring it on the bottom layer of dough. I thoroughly recommend making your own pastry – it tastes incredible in comparison to the palm oil and margarine muck they sell in supermarkets. If you have a food processor, it only takes about 2 minutes to make – it’s very easy!


Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll it out on a clean dry surface. A smooth piece of marble or granite is ideal, but a bread board or work top will work equally well. Sprinkle plain flour onto the board and rolling pin to stop it sticking. When the pastry is roughly the right size (slightly bigger is best), roll it around the rolling pin, lift it onto the pie dish and roll it back out. I’m sure listening to Bob Dylan or the Rolling Stones helps! Trim the dough to fit the dish and pinch all the way round with your fingers to make a nice crimped edge. Poke a couple of holes into the top to allow hot air to escape. Decorate with any leftover pastry. Paint the top with milk and a splash of water or use beaten egg and water – both aid in browning.


Bake the pie in a preheated oven at 200º C for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and serve with seasonal vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts.

I recommend a glass or two of Els Nanos Collita with the pie, it’s a robust Catalan vi negre (red wine) made with 70% Ull de Llebre (hare’s eye), more commonly known as Tempranillo in Spanish.

Other pheasant posts

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22 Responses to Pheasant and Leek Pie

  1. Eha says:

    Since we actually had electricity last night I watched our Bill Granger of his ‘Tasty Weekends’ filmed in Great Britain do the very same dish . . . common here indeed but assuredly made with chicken 🙂 ! He was of the opinion that since the Australian palate has little exposure to game meats or birds, we cannot appreciate such in the same way ! I dunno . . . methinks I can because of my travels perchance: with me it is always a matter of inability to purchase ! Shall file for lucky days and pass on . . . knew the anchovy paste would be amongst the ingredients to make this your own . . . nice . . .

    • Mad Dog says:

      That sounds like a weird concept – people either like game or they don’t. It’s not a question of where they come from and plenty of English people hate it. There’s a very old fashioned idea that you hang a pheasant for a couple of weeks until the head falls off, but I can assure you that it tastes better hung for 3 to 6 days and it’s pretty good fresh. If you like rabbit or venison, you’ll probably like pheasant. Kangaroo can be quite gamey and you can’t get more Australian than that 😉

      • Eha says:

        Oh, I have eaten plenty of pheasant tho’ not some of the other game birds – agree it was an unexpected statement from such a well-known chef, who, besides all else, seems to have quite a successful restaurant in Notting Hill himself ! Kangaroo – I know a lot of Aussies who will not touch it . . . but many do not eat ordinary rabbit et al also . . . or for that matter livers, kidneys, sweetbreads, tongue (especially disliked) or, God forbid, my favourite tripe . . . their loss . . . 🙂 !

  2. Agree with you that home made pastry always tastes fantastic but if you don’t have the time a good quality all butter puff pastry (eg Waitrose own brand) will give you a good pastry. I made two medium size pies to use up some rather good chicken from a large lunch party. Tasted pretty good to my mind. I like that idea of poaching. I’ve not poached pheasant before so might try it.
    Re anchovy paste I don’t use this. What about using real anchovies – if you fry gently at onion cooking stage, they break down and give you that rich flavour. I buy Ortiz anchovies which are pricey but last a good long time. When I make Puttanseca sauce for paste I always use salted anchovies they just taste better. Happy days 🙂

    • Mad Dog says:

      I bet those pies were fantastic!
      Anchovy paste is blended anchovies and olive oil – it’s pretty much the same as using a couple of salted anchovies and lives in the fridge next to a tube of tomato purée. I would use salted anchovies if a specific recipe called for them, but I’d probably eat the others in the jar or tin. I’m less tempted by the paste, though I do know someone who refers to it as anchovy paté and spreads it on crackers.

  3. James Davies says:

    My mouth was watering reading your recipe MD! I love pheasant. I have a couple in the freezer which I have been saving for a dinner party. Was going to do Delia’s pheasant in Madeira, which I have made several times before – and is very good! However, your recipe inspired me to do something different this time. Thanks!

  4. Michelle says:

    Oh what a lovely pie! Hard to believe we were there almost exactly a year ago having that wonderful lunch at the French House. Happy new year!

  5. Sunnycovechef says:

    I eat a lot of wild meat in Germany and love it. Your pie looks good to me, if I get a pheasant here in the US it will be raised on a farm. We have Cornish Game hens here, that might be a good substitute or a turkey breast .

  6. Ron says:

    A fine-looking pheasant pie indeed MD. I could take great pleasure getting into a plate of it. I agree regarding barley, I’m very fond of it in soups and such, but for this dish, I think you choose the right path. Now, as I’ve not a pheasant in the freezer just now, I’m thinking of making Alexis Soyer’s “New Cock-a-Leekie” soup from the Foodtime link you provided as a test. Then, with any luck, a pheasant might come my way for our last hunt of the season this coming weekend.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Ron! Alexis Soyer’s recipe looks good and properly traditional. It makes me wonder if some of the old soups were more like a Spanish cocido, where they drank the broth first and ate the meat separately. There’s a similar type of soup stew in Italy.
      I’ve probably got 3 or 4 pheasant weekends to go. The season ends on 1st February and there will, hopefully, be birds on sale the following weekend. I got my usual brace this morning and something extra special…

  7. This sounds divine!! What a gorgeous way to deal with pheasant.


  8. Karen says:

    With your addition of both anchovy paste and sherry vinegar, I know that your pheasant pie will have an outstanding depth of flavor to it.

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