Skip the standard turkey and surprise with this multi-bird roast. It's fit for royalty a certain to impress for the Christmas lunch. Learn how to how a three-bird roast

Skip the standard turkey and dreaded dryness with an impressive roast fit for royalty this Christmas. The same turkey can get repetitive, so learn how to cook a three-bird roast for a truly spectacular offering and see if they can guess which birds are on the table. Learn about the history and follow The Field’s tips on how to cook a three-bird roast for your best Christmas lunch yet.

Put turkey, pheasant, partridge, grouse and roe deer tenderloin for a Christmas roast fit for royalty, read Christmas cooking: The Royal Roast.

QUERY: I have been promised, as a gift for Christmas, a multi-bird roast. I am intrigued and wonder what the history of this dish is and whether there is a knack to cook a three-bird roast successfully?
AM, by email


Multi-bird roasts are particularly popular at Christmas. A three-bird roast is often known as a royal roast or turducken – a play on the words turkey, duck and chicken – but some multi-bird roasts can stretch to eight birds which include a turkey, goose, duck, chicken, pheasant, partridge, pigeon and woodcock. Throughout the centuries there have been accounts of such extravagant dishes as the Yorkshire Christmas Pie served in the 18th century, which consisted of five different birds in pastry. A French chef from the same period produced his “roast without equal”, starting with a bustard and finishing 17 birds later with a garden warbler. Apparently, the smallest bird was supposed to be tiny enough to hold just an olive.

To cook a third-bird roast, the biggest problem is to ensure the turkey meat does not dry out. Smear the skin of the bird thickly with butter or goose fat, and cover with streaky bacon and a single layer of foil. It is advisable to baste regularly throughout the cooking time and use a meat probe to ensure the centre is cooked.