It’s the essence of all that is good about the yearly food cycle and well worth trying. These recipes require some skill and concentration – but are definitely worth it! You should be able to get partridge from a decent local butcher – I’d say Fenwicks’ and Ridleys in the north, Riggs or Meynell’s in the south of the region. A good butcher or farm shop will have a game supplier who can get some for you.
You will be confronted by two species of partridge in the UK. The red-legged (French) partridge and the grey (English) partridge. The French partridge looks the best – a striking bird with a bright red bill, a distinctive white throat, black stripes over its eyes and of course, red legs. The grey partridge is smaller and appears drab by comparison. Closer inspection does reveal a little colour buried under its wings. In terms of taste though roles are reversed and the grey partridge comes out on top with a finer flavour and texture.
The partridge season runs until February but the early birds, until November are undoubtedly the best. Young partridge are best savoured simply roasted as the flesh is so tender.
Roasting a young partridge demands care and attention. Once plucked, cleaned and singed it should be seasoned inside and out then tied with butcher’s string with couple of slices of streaky bacon covering the breast.
Then place it in a snug roasting dish with a knob of butter and a sprig of thyme. Roast for 10 minutes in a medium oven, turning and basting regularly. Remove the string and bacon and return to the oven to complete the roasting for a further five minutes. The flesh should be pink. Remove from the oven, season again and put to rest in a warm place. Deglaze the roasting dish with a splash of Cognac and a spoonful of water. Serve the partridge with the bacon, the roasting juices and a piece of fried bread. Braised Savoy cabbage and buttery potato puree are great accompaniments.
2 red leg partridges, oven ready
salt and pepper
2 sprigs rosemary
8 Thin slices streaky bacon or pancetta
3tblsp olive oil
250ml white wine
1 small carrot (sliced)
1 small onion (sliced)
1 celery stick (sliced)
200g Carnaroli rice
1ltr chicken stock
50g grated Parmesan cheese
Season the partridges inside, insert a sprig of rosemary into each, cover the breasts with bacon and tie with string.
Colour well in olive oil, then deglaze with white wine (scraping any sediment from the base of the pan).
Add carrots, onion and celery then place in the oven at 190°C for 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cover partridge loosely with foil to rest – retain the cooking juices.
Make risotto in usual way, adding boiling chicken stock a little at a time.
Finish with butter and parmesan then 2tblsp partridge roasting juice.
Divide the risotto between four hot plates with half a partridge on each.
Spoon over the remaining roasting juice.
Partridge and foie gras pie
This is quite a lengthy, cheffy recipe, but worth trying because the pie tastes so good. It does take time but the steps aren’t particularly complicated.
400g puff pastry
2 egg yolks
1/2 Savoy cabbage
200g foie gras
Pluck, clean and singe the partridges (or ask the game dealer/butcher do it for you) and retain the hearts and livers.
Remove the breasts with a sharp knife and set aside. Chop the legs and carcasses with a large knife and reserve for making the sauce.
Separate cabbage into leaves and stamp out 8 x 85mm discs with a cutter and cook in boiling salted water until tender. Refresh in iced water then drain and dry on a clean cloth.
Cut the foie gras crossways into 4 x 50g medallions.
Marinade the partridge breasts and slices of foie gras with a 1tblsp each of cognac and port. Season with lightly salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for four hours.
Roll out the puff pastry 4mm thick on a floured work surface and cut out 8 X 120mm discs – reserve.
200g pork sausage meat
The reserved Partridge livers and hearts
50g chicken livers
1 1/2 tblsp finely chopped shallot
1 egg yolk
salt, pepper and nutmeg
Finely chop the reserved partridge livers and hearts with the chicken livers. Mix together with the sausage meat.
Stew the shallots slowly in butter until soft and transparent then set aside to cool.
In a bowl on ice, mix the minced meat with the shallots, the egg yolk, seasoning, cognac and port.
Make a small burger, cook gently in a small frying pan and check for seasoning. Adjust if necessary.
Remove the partridge breasts and the foie gras from the marinade and pat dry on kitchen paper.
Divide the filling into 4 x 75g balls.
Flatten each ball to about 6mm thick between 2 sheets of cling film.
Take a sheet of cling film and place a flattened ball on it. Then place a disc of cabbage in the centre of the filling.
Place a partridge breast on the cabbage and a slice of foie gras on the partridge breast.
Place another disc of cabbage on top then gather up the cling film in order to encapsulate everything with the filling (if there are gaps or holes, add a little more filling) – chill well. When chilled remove the cling film.
Ease out half of the pastry discs with a rolling pin (the tops need to be a little bigger than the bases).
Place a partridge parcel on each pastry base, brushing the edge with beaten egg yolk.
Cover with the second slightly larger disc, sealing and crimping the edges well.
Brush the tops with two coats of egg yolk before scoring the surface of the pastry decoratively with the back of a small knife and piercing the centre with the point.
Place onto a tray lined with baking parchment and chill until ready to bake at 180°C for 12 minutes.
Serve with a rich juice made from the carcasses (below).
The chopped legs and carcasses
1 small carrot
1/2 celery stick
1 garlic clove
1 sprig thyme
1/2 bay leaf
2tbls vegetable oil
1 glass Light red wine
900ml chicken stock or water
Cut the shallots, carrot and celery into small dice. Crush the garlic clove.
Heat the vegetable oil in a cast iron roasting tray over a high heat. Throw in the chopped partridge carcasses and stir whilst cooking to a nice golden brown.
Tip the oil from the tray and add the butter and the vegetables, garlic and herbs, reduce the heat and cook slowly until the vegetables begin to soften.
Add the cognac and then shortly afterwards the red wine. As it boils scrape the base with a spatula to loosen any sediment. Boil until almost completely reduced.
Add 300ml of chicken stock and boil this until almost fully evaporated. Repeat with another 300ml chicken stock and then the remaining 300ml.
Transfer the entire contents of the tray to a saucepan and simmer very slowly for 1hour, skimming regularly to remove any impurities.
Strain through a fine sieve into another saucepan and boil to reduce to a coating consistency. Taste to check seasoning and correct if necessary.