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Recipe for grilled partridge, pilaf and late-summer fruits

Rose Prince creates a wonderfully fragrant and light pilaf served with grilled partridge and summer fruit, perfect for the start of the season. Serves two.

grilled partridge pilaff

Recipe for grilled partridge, pilaf and late-summer fruits


  • 2 partridges
  • 2 figs, halved (or red plums or greengages)
  • 1 lemon, cut into quarters
  • 4 sprigs fennel or dill leaves

For the rub:

  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 pinches mild chilli powder
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 TBSP olive oil

For the pilaf:

  • 1 tbsp pine nuts
  • 50g butter
  • 3 white onions, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • Half a cinnamon stick
  • 8 saffron threads
  • 150g basmati rice
  • 4 soft, dried apricots, sliced
  • About 700ml chicken stock
  • sea salt and black pepper

For the yoghurt sauce:

  • 4 tbsp Greek-style yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp of cooked onions


  1. Put the lemon zest, chilli powder, salt, pepper and olive oil on a plate and mix, then place the spatchcocked partridges on the plate, skin-side down. Rub them in the seasoning, making sure they are coated with it.
  2. Next prepare the pilaf. First, toast the pine nuts. Place the pan over a medium heat, add the nuts and gently brown them, shaking the pan occasionally. Once they are golden brown, tip on to a plate and set aside.
  3. Melt the butter in the same pan and add the onions. Cook over a low-medium heat until they begin to change colour to a light brown. This will take about 10 minutes — be careful not to let them burn. Remove and save one tablespoon of the cooked onions to add to the yoghurt sauce.
  4. Add the allspice, cinnamon stick and saffron. Stir, cooking for about one minute. Add the rice and apricots, stir-fry for a minute or so, then cover with the stock to a depth of about 3cm.
  5. Cut a circle of baking paper to cover the pan. Place it over the rice and tuck it down into the pan to stop evaporation as the rice cooks. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes, lift the paper and test the rice. If it is tender, stop cooking, but if it still has some bite, let it cook for another 5 minutes. Leave the paper on until serving.
  6. Meanwhile, grill and cook the partridges. Preheat the oven to 160°C and heat a ridged grill pan on the hob. Place the partridges breast-side up on the pan and cook over a medium heat for about 7 minutes, turn and cook for another 7 minutes, then put in the oven for about 10 minutes or until cooked through. Halve the figs and cook on the grill pan until browned. Scorch the lemon quarters as well.
  7. To serve, throw the toasted pine nuts over the pilaf then add the herb leaves. Serve the partridges beside it with the fruit. Put the yoghurt into a bowl and add the extra fried onion to it — no need to stir.

A note on grilled partridge pilaf

A happy welcome to the partridge season. It is my favourite gamebird, not least for its versatility. I love it simply roasted with bread sauce, a thin sherry-scented gravy and some fried breadcrumbs for extra texture. This can be a very rich plate to enjoy in the early days of the season, especially if you are lucky enough to have a supply of native grey partridge. (Read our guide to the game shooting season.)

A fragrant pilaf — with allspice and saffron — using grilled partridge is an alternative, lighter dish. My wonderful game suppliers sent me red-legged partridge for this particular recipe, as it is adaptable and best suits Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern styles of cooking.

It is easier to spatchcock the partridges for cooking on a ridged grill pan. Use kitchen or game scissors to cut along either side of the backbone on the bird’s underside. Discard the backbone then open out the carcass. Place the bird on the worktop, skin-side up, then press hard on the breastbone with your palm, to snap it. The partridge should now be flat, ready for cooking.