Monday, 12 November 2012

Partridge in a Paper Parcel

Mr. Hedworth is a mean shot... this means that most weekends at this time of year there is a knock at my door late on a Saturday afternoon, and on opening I'm greeted by a hand clutching a brace of pheasant or duck, or if I'm lucky a partridge and occasionally what feels akin to winning the lottery a couple of woodcock... I love this time of year. I currently have two duck and two pheasant in the freezer and the same again hanging in the porch; god knows what my neighbours make of me... We ate two little grouse last week, with bread sauce and sauté potatoes and this week was the turn of the partridge. My second favourite game bird... the wonderful woodcock will always win...

Last year I made an Italian dish with the partridge, with a beautiful rich meaty tomato sauce, chestnuts and grapes, a delicious dish. This year I turned to Elizabeth David and a somewhat simpler dish that didn’t involve sieving sauces. Partridge en Papillotes, which involves searing the partridge in butter until crisp, then wrapping up in greaseproof paper with butter, bacon, thyme, salt, pepper and orange peel and cooking in the oven, simple but totally delicious. I made a sticky chestnut and pancetta lentil dish to go alongside and my very own home grown parsnips and beetroot roast until golden. I was so proud when I dug them up to find actual full grown vegetables!

Unfortunately I didn’t quite get my timings right, so we sat down to raw partridge the first time round; everything had to come off the plates, back into their parcels, back into the oven, whilst keeping everything else warm. It was a palava to say the least. Next time I'll just do what Elizabeth tells me and keep my own opinions to myself...

So start with your partridge, cut in half, you can ask whoever you get them from to do this for you, or go at them with a pair of shears like I did. Allow one bird per person, they look pretty tiny but you get a surprising amount of meat from them. Heat a knob of butter in a frying pan and when it is hot add the birds and pan fry them for 8 minutes, start skin size down, until it is crisp and golden, then turn them about half way through. When they are done season them with salt and pepper, some fresh thyme leaves and a few slices of orange peel and leave them to cool.

To make the lentil dish I slowly cooked diced onion, carrot and celery with a sprig of thyme in butter until soft, then added diced pancetta, a chopped clove of garlic and some diced chestnuts and continued to cook until sticky and delicious, about half an hour. I cooked lentils until they were soft in chicken stock and the liquid was all but gone, added some shredded cabbage to cook through towards the end then stirred through the sticky chestnut and pancetta mixture. This turned out to be a bit of a triumph, I'll definitely be making it again!

When the partridge has cooled cut a strip of greaseproof paper large enough to wrap it up, spread some butter where the partridge will sit, add a slice of bacon, then sit the partridge on top, making sure you put the orange rind in too. Fold the paper over the top of the meat and then fold over and over round the edge until the package is sealed. Then pop them in the oven at about 160°C for 15 minutes. When you get them out of the oven make sure you check them so you don't end up sitting down to raw partridge like I did! Let them rest for 5 minutes under tin foil before you serve.

I served them, eventually, with the pancetta and chestnut rich delicious lentils and my very own home grown parsnips and beetroot. The partridge were delicious, rich and gamey, especially the legs, the parcel was full of buttery juices to pour over the bird and you get lovely hints of thyme and orange. Long may the game season continue, I'm filling the freezer to keep me going...

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Happy cooking! Let me know if you make any of my recipes, send a picture, and let me know any of your own recipes and tips! Anna x