Claire Macdonald’s Pheasant Terrine

Claire Macdonald

This is a genius of a recipe. Even by Claire Macdonald's standards she has surpassed herself. And with the pheasant season drawing to a close, pheasant breasts are really economical. I think I paid £3 for the meat for the whole dish. With a terrine, you generally require a chutney. No need here as this comes with a built in one, a layer of sweet and sour prunes in the centre, and the pistachios add an extra bit of texture.

It's not a difficult recipe as such, but it's quite fiddly with a few stages, each requiring time to allow components to cool. Be aware that you have to marinade the pheasants overnight. After cooking your terrine, it needs to be cooled and weighted. Try it first over a weekend when you have have more time - and do read the recipe carefully. I like to serve this as a starter with a little rocket salad, but it could easily do as a main course.

Small tip (which you probably knew) - when you want to chop an onion as finely as you do here, cut it in half but leave the root end on. This holds the onion together, making fine work easier. Some teachers will tell you to do that anyway when peeling onions. I don't and I haven't met a pro who routinely does it. Obviously you remove the root at the end. Doh!

You will need a large bowl for marinading the pheasant, 2 small pans to prepare the prunes, a 2lb loaf tin, plus foil to line it and wrap it, and a deep roasting tin to act as a bain marie.

Ingredients (serves 6 - 8)

For the marinade

1 onion or 2 shallots, very finely diced; 4 tbsp olive oil; 140ml port; rind of 1 lemon in strips (not grated); 1 sprig of fresh thyme or ½ tsp dried thyme; ½tsp salt; black pepper (about 15 turns).

For the sweet and sour prunes

1tbsp granulated sugar; 140ml red wine vinegar; 1 onion, very finely diced; 280ml chicken stock; 12 soft prunes, de-stoned, cut into six pieces; finely grated zest of ½ lemon.

For the body of the terrine

675g pheasant breast meat (approximately 5 or 6 breasts), cut into thumbnail size pieces; about 12 streaky bacon rashers, stretched (see below); 450g best quality pork sausage meat (easiest to buy good pork sausages and slit the skins to remove the meat); 85g unsalted shelled pistachios.


First make your marinade, bearing in mind that you'll have to let it cool before using it. Put all the ingredients in a pan, bring to a boil then simmer gently for 4 - 5 minutes. While this is happening, chop up your pheasant, removing any fat and pop it into a bowl. When the marinade is cold, strain it it over the pheasant meat, cover and leave overnight in the fridge. (If you have a very cool larder, that would do too.) I should say that Claire pours the whole lot in, bits and all. Straining doesn't affect the flavour, and saves you having to dig for bits of lemon peel and thyme sprigs

Next, the prunes. Put the sugar and vinegar in a pan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. As ever, a gentle heat is essential until the sugar has actually dissolved. Then bring to a boil and reduce till the liquid has almost disappeared. You want to be left with about a tablespoon of liquid. Keep a close eye on it, stirring from time to time. In another pan put the diced onion and stock. Once again you boil until the liquid has almost completely disappeared. And again, keep a close eye on it to make sure it doesn't burn. Mix in the prunes, grated lemon zest and the caramelised vinegar. Stir well and leave until cold.

Line your loaf tin with foil, making sure it gets right into the corners. Put each rasher on a board and gently run the back of a knife along it. You will be able to stretch it by about a third. This (a) makes the bacon thinner, and (b) means you get maximum coverage. When the terrine comes out, it should be completely covered in bacon.

Carefully line the loaf tin with the rashers. Start going across the way. You want there to be no gaps. I usually add three rashers at each end, leaving a long end to go vertically and cover the base.

Preheat your oven to 180˚C/Mark 4, and boil a kettle of water. Now for the assembly.  If you poured in the marinade unfiltered, remove the strips of lemon and sprig of thyme from the pheasant mixture. Leave the rest of the marinade in the bowl. Break up the sausage meat and mix it with the pheasant, the marinade liquid and the pistachios. Make sure it is very well stirred. Take approximately half of the mixture and spoon it into the tin. Bear in mind that you may have a little more than you need. Make sure you're only half filling the terrine, otherwise it will look squint when it's cut. (I usually make this mistake.) Spread the prune and onion mixture evenly over the top. Then add as much of the remaining pheasant mixture as will fit in the tin. Fold over the ends of the bacon as tightly as you can, and pull over the ends of the foil. Add another layer of foil on top and wrap very tightly.

Put your terrine tin in a roasting tin and pour in hot (not boiling) water to a level about half way up the terrine tin. Bake for two hours. Remove from the oven and weight the top with two or three 400g/ml tins. Leave to cool. (This will take quite a long time.) Transfer to the fridge where you can leave it for a couple of days before serving.

This will freeze very well. Best to cut into individual slices before freezing.

Once again my grateful thanks to Lady Claire Macdonald for giving me permission to reproduce her recipes. You will find a lot of her books on my shelves, all very well thumbed.



  1. Michael Greenlaw on 20th January 2023 at 11:09 pm

    Brilliant portrayal of the recipe Tom.
    Any suggestions as to how to make it in the Algarve without the pheasants?

    • Tom Johnston on 21st January 2023 at 10:40 am

      You could use chicken instead of pheasant.

  2. Robert Corrigan on 22nd January 2023 at 12:59 pm

    A wonderful Lady Claire Macdonald recipe.

  3. Susan on 27th January 2023 at 7:47 pm

    Thanks Tom! Kit has just come in with 10(!) brace of pheasant from the last shoot of the season. I am looking for assorted pheasant recipes!!

    • Tom Johnston on 28th January 2023 at 10:14 am

      If you go into Tom Cooks! and put pheasant in the search box, you’ll find another 3 or 4 columns with pheasant recipes. If you can be bothered, the terrine recipe is an absolute belter.

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