Seasonal Cooking – Partridge in Red Wine and Medlar:
It’s the game season – one of my favourite times of year for food. I tend to overindulge in game with the justification that it is healthy (naturally organic and lower in fat that farm cultivated meat and poultry) but with a genuine love for the flavours of Autumn and Winter that I associate with my childhood. Early in the season game birds can be simply roasted, while later on, they may benefit more from a pot roast. The catch with a roast pheasant or partridge though is that there is seldom enough juices in the pan to make a good gravy – and unless you are a better cook than me, the lean meat tends to be a little dry.
I like to serve my game birds with a sharpish fruit-based sauce – red currant, cranberry, medlar or quince. And for that you need stock. I’d love to be the well-organised kind of person who has a bag full of homemade stock ice cubes in the freezer. But, I’ve long since come to the realisation that I am never going to evolve into the kind of ‘perfect cook’ who does that. Instead, for the most part, I rely on good quality ready prepared products. While I love those pouches of fresh stock you can buy from upmarket supermarkets they are hideously expensive. But, I’ve been trialling a new product from Essential Cuisine, who make my favourite powdered stocks. They’ve recently brought out a liquid concentrate stock range in handy 150ml flip top bottles. And, for a small household they are absolutely perfect. For this recipe I have used the concentrated chicken stock, which is gluten-free and based on chicken stock with onion and garlic and which I can happily squeeze onto my hand and taste without having to pull a face. You don’t need very much of it to make a sauce like the one I am serving here – and it costs just £3.45 for a bottle. Two teaspoons (10ml) comes in at about 23 pence – and it makes all the difference to this dish. For the fruit element I use a fruit jelly – either homemade, or in this case a good quality artisan product – mine came from East Gate preserves in Norfolk – as part of my Craved crate.
I’ve used red-legged partridge here and picked medlar as my fruit jelly of choice because it has a subtle flavour. If you have never come across medlars then do look out for them, they are an ancient English fruit which you have to allow to rot before you use them. In the past I’ve made my own confit by doing just that, but it’s another painstaking task for the small quantity needed in this dish. In any case, this is the kind of recipe where you should adjust the ingredients according to the game you are serving. I’d probably pick red currant for pheasant, which has an altogether stronger flavour – and of course, you could use the same method to make a sauce for Turkey at Christmas with cranberries. Those of you with sharp eyesight may notice that I forgot to buy celery so have substituted leeks here and added a pinch of celery salt.
Here’s what to do. You can make the sauce up in advance or prepare it as your partridge is roasting. Just remember to take the partridge out after 30 minutes and leave it to rest.
- 2 Red Legged Partridge If these have not been dressed by your butcher, you will need 2 slices of streaky bacon per bird and a sprig of thyme
- 2 tsp Butter
- 1 stick Celery (or a small leek) trimmed and finely diced
- 1 Carrot trimmed and finely diced
- 1 Banana Shallot peeled and finely diced
- 1 tbsp Butter
- 250 ml Essential Cuisine Stock Made up from 2 tsp Essential Cuisine Chicken Stock Concentrate
- 150 ml Red Wine
- 2 tsp Medlar Jelly
Pre heat the oven to 220C
If the partridge hasn't been trussed and dressed by your butcher, then tie up the legs, pop a sprig of thyme in the cavity of each bird and top with streaky bacon
Smear any exposed flesh with butter and season with a little salt and pepper
Put the birds in the oven to roast. I served mine with Chanteney carrots which I roasted with the birds.
Meanwhile, melt the butter for the sauce in a small, heavy-based pan
Soften the vegetables for 5-10 minutes until the edges start to caramelise
Add the stock and red wine and simmer the mixture so that the liquid reduces to around half - this should take around 20 minutes at which point your partridge will be roasted and can be removed from the oven to rest under a foil tent
Pass the mixture through a fine sieve or use a stick blender to create a thick sauce
Stir through the medlar jelly, taste and season with salt and pepper. If the mixture is too thick add a little boiling water.
Remove any string from the partridge and serve on a pool of fruit sauce with vegetables of your choice
For me, it is in dishes like this, where a good stock is essential but in a relatively small quantity that the Essential Cuisine range comes into its own. I am unlikely to ever make lamb or beef stock for instance – that requires roasting off bones and then cooking for hours. As a city dweller, my freezer just doesn’t have space to store the end product. And, a teaspoon of this magic liquid will definitely add flavour to soups and stews.
Thinking of trying for yourself? Why not pin this post for later!
Disclosure: I was provided with samples and paid a fee to create this recipe for Essential Cuisine.