Sunday, December 13, 2009

Partridge with pumpkin and wild mushrooms

Serves 2

I had a terrific little partridge dish last week at Le Cafe Anglais at Whiteleys in Bayswater, really the first good robust bit of properly cooked game I've had this winter, the sacrifice taken for choosing to live in year round sunshine I guess. Our game season is frighteningly short, and all must be explored in this period, in the kitchen it has to be the time of year where bold flavours make their strongest appearances. The great thing about the little partridge is in the hands on picking and sucking of bones that is totally necessary to extract all the meat from its sticky little frame. This recipe suggestion is ideal for small game, the cooking in a parcel method rarely throws out a tough bird as the self basting process should knock that on the head, but if in doubt a couple of rashers of bacon wrapped around the beasts will do no harm at all.

2 oven-ready partridges
1 medium sized onion
60g butter
1 celery stalk
200g pumpkin
a few sprigs of thyme
50g fresh wild mushrooms such as girolles
80g small chestnut mushrooms

a little dry Vermouth and Cognac

You will also need a couple of sheets of greaseproof paper large enough to loosely wrap the birds.

Peel the onion and slice it into thin rings. Melt half the butter in a shallow pan and cook the onion till soft and tender, stirring from time to time. Meanwhile cut the celery into slices, add them with the thyme leaves to the onion and continue to cook till they have softened slightly. Peel the pumpkin and cut the flesh into small dice, about 1cm in diameter, then cut the mushrooms into bite-sized pieces, stir into the onion and continue to cook gently for another 8-10 minutes or so. The pumpkin wants to be just cooked but not mushy.

Lay the sheets of paper out and divide the mixture between them. Put the empty pan back on the heat, add the remaining butter, then, when it starts sizzling, put the birds in, breast-side down. Let them cook for a couple of minutes till their skin is golden, then turn and colour the other side. Lift the birds out and put them in the middle of the pumpkin mixture.

Pour over a couple of slugs each of dry vermouth and Cognac then pull the paper up around the birds and scrunch the edges together to seal. Lift the parcels onto a baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes until the parcel is golden brown and puffed up. The partridge should be golden and juicy.

Let the birds rest a little, 10 minutes if you can wait, and simply decant all bag contents onto a plate, juice and all. You will no doubt strt with a knife and fork, but I challenge anyone not to resort to fingers shortly thereafter.