Preparing & Cooking a Christmas Four Bird Roast

by Chris Devonshire-Ellis

December 27th, 2016

1 x Goose
1 x Guinea Fowl (or large duck)
1 x Pheasant (wild is best)
1 x Partridge or Quail (wild preferred)

Christmas and the New Year period are always a time to be with family and friends – with those hosting the task of putting on enough food a daunting one. Cuisine needs to be wholesome, filling, delicious and in line with the occasion, something rather special and out of the ordinary.

A 4 bird roast however usually requires a Goose as the main event. This is because Goose is fatty (in a good way) and its juices, when being cooked, will slowly trickle down through the others birds. This is both delicious, and keeps the other birds moist and succulent without drying out. Turkey is too dry for this kind of dish. The thing to remember is to choose a decent sized Goose – another two-three birds are going to be stuffed inside.

This is the reason when I am hosting, a Three or Four Bird Roast lunch or dinner always hits the spot. There’s usually enough meat in that to last three-four days as well, negating the need to spend hours cooking after the main event. In short, cooking this dish can save you hours in the kitchen over the coming days. That’s important because invariably guests expect a pretty good meal. This year I had my good friends Simon and Pauline Lazenbatt over to my Malta apartment for Christmas, and they were ably willing to assist. So thanks to them for all their help – as you can see in the pictures.

Your butcher should be able to source a nice Goose for you, and possible the other birds as well. Ask him to choose so they can all fit into each other. Its also wise to ask for birds with their giblets inside – these are essential for making a decent gravy.



The first thing to do is to weigh the birds, and calculate the collective weight as this affects cooking time. The more meat you have, the longer the time needed. Its also important to recognize these birds are best cooked on a lower heat, slowly.

Clean and season the birds as normal, then brown them whole (not the Goose) in some seasoned butter beforehand. This helps crisp up the skin and locks in their flavour. Then start to stuff them inside each other, leaving the smallest bird until last. If its a tight fit, cut off the wings and if necessary the legs and insert them at the end of the process, its always possible to wriggle them in. You may also have enough space to fit in stuffing. A good chestnut or standard sage and onion always works well, as does a variant such as apple and chestnut.



Browning the Birds


A bit of Bird Stuffing going on

A bit of Bird Stuffing going on


Heat the oven to 240, and place the birds in a high sided roasting tin. You can drizzle honey and crushed thyme or sage over the Goose, then place them in the oven and leave for about 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 190, and cook for 25 minutes per kilo of weight. You’ll need to check every 45-60 minutes on the bird, the Goose will generate a lot of fat, and this means taking the Roast out of the oven, and physically draining the fat off into a separate container. Don’t throw it away – this is precious liquor and is excellent used for roasting potatoes. (Harrods sell jars of Goose Fat for about £10 a time – its valuable).



Pouring off excess Goose Fat

About an hour before the Roast is done, its time to prepare vegetables, the roast potatoes, and usual carrots, sprouts and so on. Gravy can be made from the birds giblets. When cooking has finished, leave the birds to stand for about 30 minutes, this helps drain it, and calm it down (you don’t want to start carving and get splattered with hot fat). Then serve.

Obviously everyone is going to get slices of Goose first, then the easiest thing is to extract the next bird, and carve and so on. You’ll receive a lot of compliments! Serve with a medium bodied Red Wine.

There’s usually a lot left over, which can be used as Boxing Day cold cuts served the day after with Pickles. If there is still meat left, on the 27th I like to curry the left over meats, and prepare a full Indian meal, with accompanying Dahl and so on. When you’re finally left with just the bones, break the larger ones up a bit and make a stock. That can be transformed into a hearty winter soup, with any left over roast potatoes and vegetables blended in just for good measure. A measure of cream usually works well in this too.

So there you have it – impress your family and friends and give yourself a break from cooking much the next three days. The Four Bird Roast. Happy Christmas !

PS: One Christmas in Beijing, several years ago, I produced a 5 bird roast. The fifth bird was a small sparrow, the Chinese still catching, plucking and roasting these as snacks on a stick during the winter months. But there’s not a lot of meat on it, and I wouldn’t recommend it.