Pheasant, squash & pearl barley risotto

by Tim Maddams

An earthy one pot wonder

Although I have called this a risotto, as it’s a good way to describe the texture we are aiming for, it’s really a look back to the past. A pottage would be a more appropriate title, or even a porridge, but risotto sounds better—less challenging and tastier, so let’s go with that.

I like to cook this dish late in the pheasant season, when the birds are getting a little tough, for a truly inspiring roast. The cold roasted meat is good in so many ways: curries, sandwiches, pies, wraps, fry ups and more. The bonus with roasting the bird whole is that you get lots of the flavour of the bone into the flesh, and you can then use the bones and any roasting juices to make the stock.

The dish could end up being a little too stodgy and comforting, so the gremolata lifts the whole thing up and freshens it; the verbena makes a nice twist to the classic parsley, lemon and garlic version.


1 whole oven ready pheasant, roasted
1 small squash, acorn for example
2 fresh bay leaves
1 large onion
½ carrot, well-scrubbed and chopped
1 stem of fresh rosemary
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
50ml rapeseed oil
200g organic pearl barley
28ml dry organic cider
Chilli flakes to taste
1 tsp lemon verbena, chopped


First roast your pheasant in a hot oven around 220C and allow to cool. The length of time it takes to cook depends on a few variables—size of bird, heat in oven etc—but around 35 mins should cover it.

While the oven is on, cut your squash into wedges, scrape out the seeds and place on a roasting tray with a little rapeseed oil, salt and pepper. Roast this until tender and then leave to cool.

Strip the pheasant meat from the bones, discarding any heavily shot pieces or any bloody or high meat. Pheasant is best used as fresh as possible, so avoid well hung birds. Place the bones in a pot just large enough to hold them and add 1 bay leaf, half the onion in its skin and then the carrot. Cover with cold water and bring to a simmer. Cook for 1 hour and add in any roasting juices remaining in the roasting tray.

Peel and finely chop the other half of the onion, pick and chop the rosemary and sweat this all off in a casserole dish or wide saucepan with ⅔ the garlic and ½ the rapeseed oil. Add the barley and turn up the heat. You want to toast the barley a little to help bring out its flavour and enhance the texture.

Add the cider and simmer until almost gone, then add enough stock to just cover the barley and simmer until tender, adding more stock if needs be (around 20 mins) seasoning with salt and chilli flakes as you go. Once the barley is tender, turn it right down and don't add too much more stock: you don't want a watery dish.

Roughly chop the torn pheasant flesh and peeled roasted squash and add this to the risotto along with the remaining bay leaf and a little more stock if needs be. Season again to taste. Make sure you allow time for the pheasant meat and the squash to get nice and hot before turning off the heat.

Finely chop the remaining garlic, mix with the verbena and a little more oil. Serve the risotto in bowls with the gremolata drizzled over.

Recipe: Tim Maddams