Partridge, Roast Shallots & Beetroot Serves 4
Heat the vinegar, red wine and water in a pan and then dissolve the salt and sugar in the warm liquid. Remove from the heat and then add the garlic, black pepper and thyme and cool. (Makes about 1 litre).
I use partridge crowns for this recipe. I take whole partridges, remove the back legs and take half the backbone away to leave just the crown. The crowns are then soaked in a brine solution (see page 101) for 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 180°C .
For the roast shallots:
Peel the banana shallots and place in a small roasting tray with the garlic, thyme, red wine and chicken stock. Cover with tin foil and place in the oven. After 18-20 minutes remove the tin foil to check if they are tender (there should be a little resistance when stabbed with a sharp knife). Remove 4 shallots and set aside. Return the remaining 6 shallots, uncovered, to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the shallots are very soft. Purée these shallots and any remaining liquid in a processor.
For the beetroot:
With the golden and candied beets, wash the skins and then wrap each in a sheet of foil, adding 1 garlic clove, 2 thyme sprigs and a good salt seasoning to each. Bake for around 1½ hours until tender (there should be no resistance when stabbed with a sharp knife). Remove from the oven and, when cool enough to handle, peel the beetroot.
Cut the candied beet into a nice dice and set aside. Cut the golden beets into cylinders using an apple corer. Mix the white wine vinegar, 100ml water, saffron and some salt and pepper and soak the cylinders in the solution for at least 1 hour (they can stay in this solution for 3-4 days if making in advance). Meanwhile, cook the purple beets in a pan of boiling water until tender (for around 1 hour). Refresh in cold water and then peel. I use a Parisian scoop (or melon baller) to form little beetroot balls. Mix the sherry vinegar, 200ml water and caster sugar and soak the balls in this solution for at least an hour. As above, they can stay in the solution for 3-4 days.
Preheat the oven to 170°C.
For the partridge:
Remove the partridge from the brine and pat dry. Heat the oil in an ovenproof frying pan on a medium heat. Fry the partridge crown until the skin is lovely and golden, then add the butter, thyme and garlic to the pan and pop it all in the oven for 10-12 minutes (if you have a meat thermometer take the meat to 54°C), then remove from the oven and wrap the crown in foil to rest.
To finish the dish:
Take the 4 set aside shallots and cut in half lengthways. Heat the butter in a frying pan and fry until caramelised. Take a spoon of the warm shallot purée and create a stripe down each plate. Dot around the different beetroots and the fried shallots. Carve off the breasts from the crown of the partridge (serving two breasts per portion) and slice them to present on the plate. Over the top I like to sprinkle butter fried breadcrumbs to add crunch.