On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree…
Today folks I present you with what is possibly my most literal interpretation of the song lyrics; a four-bird-roast using chicken, turkey, duck and pheasant.
I conducted much research in preparation for this one and there are many variations – some recipes use partridge and goose – but I decided to use the birds I like most and as the pheasant is the smallest and most delicate of the meats kept it to the centre.
I am really pleased with how my roast turned out, it was moist and there was just enough stuffing to add flavour. Be warned though this is both time consuming and messy – it took me 50 minutes to assemble the joint – so I would advise eating a big breakfast or preparing this the day before and refrigerating overnight.
Either way it is well worth the wait, just have the flannel ready to mop up the post eating meat sweats!
- 1 large chicken breast with the skin on
- 1 turkey fillet
- 1 duck breast
- 2 pheasant breasts (I asked my butcher to debone a small pheasant and used the wings and legs to make gravy)
- 8 slices of streaky bacon
- 200 grams of sage and onion stuffing
- 50 grams of butter
- 6-8 chestnuts finely chopped
- Zest of 1 orange (keep the orange to cook with the roast)
- Cling film
- Cooking string
- To assemble the joint you will need plenty of workspace and ideally two chopping boards; one to prepare the meat and another to build the joint.
- To ensure the meat cooks evenly you should start with butterflying the chicken, turkey and duck breasts.
- Start by laying the chicken breast out on one chopping board and using a sharp knife slice through the fillet, be careful not to cut the whole way through at the other side as you want to keep the fillet in one piece.
- Open the breast out on to the chopping board, cover with cling film and pummel with a rolling pin to even out.
- Cover the second board in cling film and lay the chicken breast – skin side down – out flat on it.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- In a bowl prepare your stuffing mix, I cheated and bought pre-made stuffing (believe me there is a lot of work in building big bird!), which I fancied-up by adding chestnuts and orange zest. I also added 50 grams of butter to ensure the stuffing was wet enough to mould.
- Take some of the stuffing and press into the chicken, covering it in a thin layer.
- Stay with me it all gets a bit busy going forward!
- Now repeat the process for the turkey breast; butterfly, flatten and lay it on to top of the stuffing. Don’t worry if it is bigger than the chicken as everything is tidied up at the end.
- Season the turkey with salt and pepper and cover with another layer of stuffing.
- Next up is the duck. Remove all of the excess skin first, taking care not to tear the meat and butterfly and flatten as before. Lay the duck out flat on top of the stuffing.
- Season the duck with salt and pepper, but this time don’t add a layer of stuffing. I didn’t want the duck or pheasant to dry out so placed them next to each other.
- Now take the pheasant breasts and any other bits of meat that came off the bird and lay these out in a layer on top of the duck.
- Season with salt and pepper and add a final layer of stuffing to cover all of the meat.
- This is the stage where it all starts to get a bit messy, stuffing will literally fly out all over the place.
- Lift the edges of the cling film along the longest side of the joint and start to roll this over the bottom part of the joint.
- You should now have a fairly big bird, to tidy it up the push the two ends of the chicken together to tightly pack in the filling, this involves a lot of pulling and pushing to compact everything together. This stage does take a bit of work, but use the cling film to help mould the joint.
- Once everything is tightly packed together, take the streaky bacon and wrap it around the bird, stretching it to cover over any gaps.
- A few recipes I looked at suggested laying the bacon out on the cling film before adding the first layer of meat. Personally I found it is easier to use the bacon almost as a bandage to seal the joint.
- Now use your cooking string to tie up the bird and keep it together; I used two across the length and four around the width.Once the bird has been tied up, wrap a clean piece of cling film tightly around it and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Remove the cling film and the joint should now be well compacted and ready to cook.
- Add water to a large roasting tin along with the orange from earlier, cut into halves.
- Set the joint into the centre of the tin and cover with a tent of tin foil.
- Roast for 45 minutes at 200 degrees to start with, then turn down the heat down to 150 degrees. Baste the joint with the cooking juices and roast for a further hour with the tin foil still on.
- After one-hour remove the tin foil, baste the joint and cook the bird uncovered for the final half hour.
- I cooked my bird for 2 hours 15 mins.
- Remove the roast from the oven, cover with tin foil and leave to rest for at least half an hour… even though it looks and smells delicious don’t be tempted to cut into the meat or it will break away.
- Slice the meat and enjoy with your favourite roast dinner accompaniments and if there is any leftover keep in fridge and use as a decadent sandwich filling.