Would you swap your turkey for a £350 ten-birder?

Would you swap your turkey for a £350 ten-birder?

  • Sarah Rainey tries Fortnum and Mason’s ultimate Christmas roast 
  • READ MORE: Christmas favourites like panettone and chestnuts plus two turkey alternatives using just five ingredients from TV chef’s book 

Plucked and pink, with two bony legs sticking out one end, it looks like the biggest turkey I’ve ever seen.

It’s so heavy — a whopping 8kg — that lifting it on to the baking tray is like a session at the gym. And the less said about the ungainly huffing and puffing it takes to squeeze it into my modest-sized oven, the better.

You may have heard of a three-bird roast, or even a five-bird roast… but Fortnum and Mason, the purveyors of luxury, decadence and downright OTT Christmas food, has gone one better this year.

Currently crisping up in my oven is its astonishingly extravagant ten-bird roast.

Yours for £350 and said to feed up to 30 people, there’s turkey (a game-hung, free-range, bronze-aged one) of course, as well as a free-range chicken and then two apiece of partridge, mallard, pheasant and pigeon, all neatly rolled up and tied together to look like a whole bird.

Sarah Rainey with Fortnum and Mason’s extravagant ten-bird roast, which costs £350 and can feed up to 30 people 

Inside, I’m told, is a festive cranberry, orange and rosemary pork stuffing — and the whole thing is boneless in the middle, so when it’s cooked all I have to do is carve it up and dig in.

Perhaps the most opulent Christmas centrepiece ever created, the food developers at Fortnum’s call it ‘the decadent fruit of our festive daydreams’ — and it’s certainly something to behold. But does it live up to expectations — and that eye-watering price tag?

The concept of stuffing a bird inside another bird (and doing it nine times over) may be unusual, but it’s not new. 

In fact, it can be traced back to Tudor England, when multi-bird roasts were the height of fashion among the landed gentry as a sign of wealth and a way of showing off a thriving game population.

The practice itself is specialist and time-consuming — it can take 45 minutes to debone and spatchcock a single bird, especially smaller ones — and then each one needs to be rolled (not technically ‘stuffed’) inside another, in ascending size.

Then there’s the issue of cooking it. My Fortnum’s roast, which comes with an A4 page of instructions, and a handy meat thermometer for checking the internal temperature, takes five hours, 15 minutes in the oven, plus another 35 minutes’ resting time: a total of just under six hours.

I start by seasoning it, covering it in foil and roasting it at 200c for two hours, 15 minutes. The instructions tell me to check the internal temperature every 40 minutes, but this seems like far too much hassle, given the faff of getting it into the oven in the first place.

Next, I turn the oven down to 180c — and give it another three hours. The useful part about all this time is that on Christmas Day I’d have a chance to prepare the trimmings: ideal for a last-minute cook like me who never does anything in advance. 

The ten bird roast, which contains a festive cranberry, orange and rosemary pork stuffing, takes a total of just under six hours to cook 

Perhaps the most opulent Christmas centrepiece ever created, the food developers at Fortnum’s call it ‘the decadent fruit of our festive daydreams’

Saying that, the bird fills the entire oven — and then some —so I’m not quite sure where they’d go.

Fifteen minutes before it’s done, I take the foil off to crisp the skin and check the internal temperature is 75c (this means it’s cooked through).

Out it comes to rest for 35 minutes, and finally: the moment of truth. There’s a lot of pressure on carving a £350 joint of meat, so I select my sharpest knife, which glides through the skin to reveal succulent layers of white and brown flesh, like a meaty rainbow.

Though I can’t quite tell my partridge from my pheasant, each one tastes and looks different: there are gamey flavours, delicate white meat, buttery brown meat and, pleasingly, not a sniff of dry, bland turkey — it’s all cooked to perfection.

My favourite by far is the mallard: it’s rich, tender and utterly delicious drenched in the meaty gravy.

The stuffing inside, full of zesty orange, fresh herbs and plump cranberries, adds a lovely sweetness to every mouthful, and I wish there was more of it. Ideal if you’re feeding a big crowd, and certainly a showstopper, this might just take the place of turkey on my Christmas table.

First, however, I’ll need to buy myself a bigger oven … It’s available for dispatch from December 19 (£350, fortnumandmason.com).

Sarah is impressed with the gamey flavours, delicate white meat, buttery brown meat and, pleasingly, not a sniff of dry, bland turkey


Aldi Specially-Selected Three-Bird Roast, 1.2kg (£24.99, aldi.co.uk)

Comprising turkey, chicken and duck, wrapped around a traditional pork and cranberry stuffing, this Aldi offering serves five people and is topped with beechwood-smoked bacon.

Clark & Son Christmas Five-Bird Roast, weight varies, (£100, clarkandsonmeats.com)

Made by a traditional butcher based in the Suffolk village of Long Melford, this extravagant roast contains turkey, duck, pheasant, partridge and pigeon. Inside there’s a generous portion of cranberry and orange stuffing.

Marks & Spencer Easy-Carve Stuffed Three-Game Roast, 1.3kg (£47.50, marksandspencer.com)

For something a bit different, M&S’s alternative to a turkey centrepiece is this three-bird game roast. Made from tender pheasant, partridge and pigeon, with pork, sage and onion stuffing, it serves up to six people and takes just two hours in the oven.

Lidl Braemoor Three Bird Roast, 1.4kg (£12.99, lidl.co.uk)

The biggest bargain of the lot, this frozen roast is cheaper than even a small turkey — and feeds six. It’s made from turkey, duck and chicken, and you can choose from two types of stuffing: sage and roast garlic or cranberry and thyme. Cooks from frozen in 170 minutes.

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