One of the good things about my favourite fishmonger, Out of the Blue, is that – like any good fishmonger – they supply game during the season. It’s very well priced there and I picked up a couple of partridges for just £2.50 each. Great stuff. I’ve already done a stewed partridge recipe from the book. As well as specific recipes, Griggers goes through each game species with some advice on how to cook them. Here is what she says about partridge:
Roast: 30 minutes, 220⁰C;
Inside: chopped liver, chopped onion and butter, mushrooms chopped and stewed in butter;
Serve with: bread sauce, etc as for pheasant (see this recipe);
Braised: with chestnuts and cabbage and white wine (see this recipe).
So roast them I did. I filled them with onion and butter (the fillings used for game are there more to prevent them drying out than anything else, really). Before roasting I did make sure they were well-seasoned. To serve I thought I’d add some mashed potatoes – the bland creaminess goes well with strong metallic-scented game – and some kale with fried bacon lardons stirred through them. Lastly I made a sweet rich sauce from half a pint of strongly-flavoured game stock made from a woodcock carcass (see next entry, if I pull my finger out and write it!), a tablespoon of redcurrant jelly and the deglazed juices from the roasting pan (I used some port do to the deglazing).
#203 Partridge – 6/10. I liked the partridge, the leg meat was very gamey and the breast meat milder; a good combination. I am assuming that they were our own indigenous grey partridges because of their small size and strong flavour (there are two species in the UK, the other being the slightly larger and introduced red-legged partridge). There was a surprisingly large amount of meat on these little birds and one was certainly enough per one person. I would certainly recommend trying them if you haven’t before, though I’d go for the braised recipe rather than this roasted one.
When I made the chestnut soup the other day, I made sure that there was enough spare to make this dish. I had bought a brace of partridge from the Farmers’ Market a couple of months ago waiting for some chestnuts to turn up. I had never eaten partridge before, but I know it is a highly-prized game bird. This is a very easy dish to cook – a very good introduction to game, if you haven’t cooked it before.
Here’s what to do with a brace of the little birdies:
Brown the partridge and 6 ounces of chopped streaky bacon in 1 ½ ounces of butter. When done, transfer the to a casserole dish and brown18 pickling onions, or 9 shallots, and add them to the dish too. Next, take a glass of dry white wine and deglaze the pan with it, making sure all the nice stuck-down bits come away from the pan’s base and pour over the birds. Add a little beef stock so that the liquids comes around half-way up the partridges. Cover and cook in a moderate oven – around 150ºC. Grigson now says to take out the birds when ‘almost done’. I had no idea when this would be and thought it would be slightly less than the pigeon I once did, but I was wrong. Take them out after around 45 minutes (I cooked them for 2 ½ hours!) and remove the birds. Add some Savoy cabbage that has been blanched for 10 minutes and lay it out in the dish. Return the birds. Now add 6 ounces of chestnuts that have been pricked, boiled for 15 minutes and then peeled. Cook for a further 45 minutes, or less if the meat comes easily away from the bones. I realised that they were already done at this point and didn’t leave the chestnuts in long enough. According to Larousse Gastromonique partridge shouldn’t take any more than 1 ½ hours to cook.
Finally, arrange the chestnuts, cabbage and onions or shallots on a dish with the birds on top and allow them to rest. Meanwhile, reduce the liquor from the dish by boiling it down hard to concentrate the flavours. This final step is very important. Serve with boiled potatoes.
#108 Partridge with Chestnuts and Cabbage – 7.5/10. A very delicious meal – everything went so very well together and the partridge was pale with a nice gamy flavour that was not overpowering at all. The dish should be a 9 really I think, as the birds were overdone and a little dry and the chestnuts not cooked enough, but hey-ho that’s my fault, not Grigson’s.