Your tablecloth may not thank you but your guests will, says Philippa Davis, making the most of the season’s partridges
THERE is great splendour in serving, presenting and eating a whole roast gamebird, coupled with satisfaction and skill in removing all of the meat, often to the demise of tablecloths, napkins and occasionally table manners. However, as the season progresses the leg meat in particular can become tough.
Confit is the perfect solution as slow cooking in fat makes the meat tender and intensifies the flavour, although it doesn’t guarantee the survival of your napkins as it’s hard to resist picking up the bones to ensure you taste every last morsel.
CONFIT PARTRIDGE LEGS WITH CELERIAC PUREE, FRIED CHESTNUTS AND SAGE
Serves 4 as a starter
8 partridge legs
1 1∕2 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp dried rosemary
10 juniper berries
8 bay leaves
8 cloves garlic
2 cloves nutmeg, grated
400g melted goose or duck fat
For the celeriac purée
400g celeriac, peeled and cut into equal-sized chunks
1 1∕2 pints milk or water
1 sprig thyme
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp double cream
For the fried chestnuts and sage 12 sage leaves
12 chestnuts, peeled and cooked
1 clove nutmeg
As it’s quite a process you can do this in bigger batches as it keeps for up to three months in the fridge. The fat can be reused a couple of times for more confit.
Preheat oven to 110°C/225°F/ Gas Mark 1∕4.
In a bowl, mix the legs with the salt and rosemary and toss well. Leave in the fridge for 24 hours then remove and pat dry, discarding any liquid.
Mix the legs with the juniper, peppercorns, bay, garlic and nutmeg and place in an ovenproof dish, then pour over the fat. Cover with baking paper and tightly top with foil. Bake in the oven for about 2 1∕2 hours or until the meat is meltingly tender.
Once cooked and cooled a little, remove legs from the fat and place into a suitable storage container (something with a lid works best). Strain the fat and separate any juices; these can be added to soups or sauces. Top the legs with the strained fat making sure it covers the meat. Leave to cool. The confit can be kept in the fridge for up to three months.
To finish and serve: preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/GAS Mark 6. Lay the desired number of legs flat on a roasting tray, allowing a little of the fat to cling on. Roast for about 15 minutes or until golden and heated through.
In a saucepan, cover the celeriac in water or milk seasoned with a little salt and the
sprig of thyme; once soft, drain, remove the thyme and mash well adding the butter and cream. Check for seasoning.
In a small frying pan heat a few tablespoons of the fat used in the confit. When hot, fry the sage leaves in batches until crispy then drain on paper. Fry the chestnuts in the same fat for a couple of minutes and drain on paper.
To serve, put a spoonful of celeriac purée on a warmed plate, top with two legs, a scattering of chestnuts and a few sage leaves, grate over a little nutmeg.
PARTRIDGE BREAST CAESAR-STYLE SALAD
4 partridge breasts
1 tsp fresh chopped thyme
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 2 slices cooked crispy streaky bacon cut into 1cm pieces
30g parmesan shavings
1 head romaine lettuce washed and roughly chopped For the croutons
1 slice of bread cut into poundcoin-size pieces
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
4 basil leaves, finely chopped For the dressing
1 dsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp grated parmesan
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp apple or orange juice
3 anchovies, finely chopped
This really is a top shoot lunch, the partridge meat adding a twist to this classic salad. The critical elements of a caesar salad are to get the croutons crunchy and to make a really tasty dressing.
To make the croutons: preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/GAS Mark 4. Toss the bread in the garlic, oil and basil then lay flat on a tray. Roast for 10 minutes or until golden and crisp (it may need turning half way through).
To make the dressing: in a bowl, sprinkle some salt then whisk in, in this order, the lemon, mustard, parmesan, mayonnaise and olive oil then the juice and anchovies. Season with pepper.
Toss the partridge breasts in the thyme and olive oil and season. Fry in a pan on a high heat for a couple of minutes each side. Leave to rest for one minute then slice into threes.
To serve, toss the lettuce through the dressing with the parmesan, bacon, partridge and croutons. Pile onto a dish and eat straight away, as there is nothing worse than a soggy crouton.
APPLE AND PEAR TART
320g puff pastry, ready rolled
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 dsp milk
4 tbsp demerara sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
150g sweetened apple purée
1 tbsp softened butter
2 tbsp apricot jam, melted
This makes a lovely light dessert or afternoon tea-time treat. It also freezes well, so can be made in batches if you are trying to work your way through a glut of apples and pears.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F/gas Mark 4. Lay the pastry on a flat baking sheet and lightly score, taking care not to go all the way through, then brush with the egg yolk mix.
Bake in the oven for 15 mintutes or until golden. Flatten by pressing down with another flat tray.
Mix two tablespoons of demerara sugar, one teaspoon of cinnamon and the ginger with the apple purée and smear onto the pastry.
Peel and core the pears then slice thinly and arrange onto the purée. Sprinkle over the remaining sugar and cinnamon. Dot over the butter.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the pears are softened and slightly golden.
Remove from the oven and brush with the apricot jam.
Eat warm or cold cut into squares and served with clotted cream or yogurt.
Apple and pear tart makes good use of those windfalls
Partridge meat adds a twist to a caesar-style salad
Confit partridge legs is ideal
for late-season birds
Watch Philippa Davis in action at www.thefield.co.uk. To discover more about the writer, follow her blog at philippadavis.com “Postcard Recipes”.
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