Cook­ery

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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 pep­per­corns

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

Serves 2

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

Serves 6

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

5 pears

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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