Lemon roast pheasant with onion-apple sauté

by | Jan 22, 2016 | Meat dishes

Hunting has a long tradition in Hungary, the diversified and ample game population provides great possibilities for hunters nearly all year round. The atmosphere of coursings in the autumn-winter season is fascinating and incomparable. Both large and small games can be hunted in different regions of the country, the homeland of small game hunting is the Great Hungarian Plain, most of the hunts take place in Békés, Csongrád, Hajdú-Bihar and Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg counties.

One of the most hunted small games in Hungary is pheasant. It is a well-known gamebird, perhaps the most widespread and ancient one in the whole world. Pheasants were hunted in their natural range by Stone Age humans, since the Roman Empire the bird was extensively introduced in many places and has become a naturalized member of the European fauna. In order to meet the increasing demands, nowadays pheasant is bred on game farms. Birds are supplied both to hunting and restaurants, but they are also available for home cooks.

Due to the hunting traditions game often appears on the menu of restaurants and households. Despite that there are many people who shy away from tasting game. However, really exciting and princely dishes can be made from game meat. Game is one of the healthiest foods, low-fat, excellent source of proteins containing valuable vitamins and mineral salts. The quality of game meat is determined by several factors such as the animal’s age, sex, nutrition, conditions of bagging. Game meat is dry and fibrous, so its preparation requires more work and special care.

Roasted lemon pheasant with apple-onion sauté
Lemon roast pheasant – photo: zserbo.com
Roasted pheasant with apple-onion sauté
Lemon roast pheasant with onion-apple sauté – photo: zserbo.com


  • 1 hen pheasant, young
  • 1 lemon, unwaxed
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 8-10 garlic cloves
  • 50 ml (~1/4 cup) olive oil
  • 50 ml (~1/4 cup) white wine
  • 30 g (~2 tbsp) butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the side dish:

  • 4 apples, diced
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Using a heavy, sharp knife cut the pheasant in half down the back, then chop it in half down the middle. Trim off any fat or bruised bits. Cut the lemon in four pieces. Place the pheasant into a bowl, squeeze over the lemon juice and add the lemon quarters to the bowl, too. Lightly crush the garlic cloves with the flat side of a broad knife, but don’t peel them. Add them to the bowl. Pour over the olive oil and the white wine, sprinkle with thyme, marjoram and freshly ground black pepper. Coat the meat with the marinade evenly, cover and chill in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 392°F. Salt the pheasant. Melt butter in a heavy-based frying pan. When the butter is hot, remove the meat from the marinade and sear, skin-side down, to colour. Turn the pieces and brown the other side. When the pieces are browned, place them in a roasting dish. Pour over the marinade with the lemon quarters and garlic cloves from the bowl and the dripping from the frying pan. Place the pheasant in the oven and roast until tender and cooked through (the juice will run clear when the thigh is pierced with a skewer). Remove from the oven and rest for 15-20 minutes.

While resting the meat, make the side dish. From the roasting dish spoon 1-2 tablespoons of dripping into a sauté pan and heat it up. Add finely chopped onions and over low-medium heat cook until almost tender. Stir in diced apples, sprinkle with salt, pepper and marjoram, add sugar and  cook until the apples are tender. Cut the pheasant into serving pieces and pile onto a large plate. Serve with the apple-onion sauté and/or mashed potatoes.

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Hungarian cottage cheese

This is what Hungarian túró looks like

You often ask me what kind of cottage cheese (or curd cheese or farmer's cheese - call it what you want) I use in the recipes. In Hungary the store-bought cottage cheese is dry and crumbly as you can see in the picture. So if a recipe calls for túró, I mean this type. If you can't obtain túró, you can try to make your own from whole milk. Click on the link below.

Metric system vs cup

In Hungary metric units are in use, all the recipes on this website are based on this system, so a kitchen scale is necessary. Since I’m not familiar with cup as a measurement unit, I convert grams to cups by using an online converter. The values in brackets, therefore, are only approximate volumes, so, please, double-check them before you start cooking.

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