This roast partridge dish is perfect for a light supper, but do be kind to your guests and carve the fiddly birds before serving, says Rose Prince. Serves four.
Partridges can present an especially awkward grapple. So seam the breast meat off the ‘crown’ of this roast partridge recipe and joint the legs so they can be picked up.
This method works well with this partridge recipe, a platter of jointed roast partridge, aubergine, sesame and lemon purée and a mustardy salad.
Roast partridge with moutabal, watercress and white cabbage salad
For the aubergine purée:
juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp thick Greek-style full fat yoghurt
1 heaped dsp of tahini (sesame) paste
2 tbsp finely chopped watercress leaves
For the watercress salad:
100g watercress leaves – no tough stalks
1 tbsp tarragon leaves
½ a white cabbage, finely grated on a medium grater
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar
4 tbsp cold-pressed rapeseed oil
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Brush the aubergines with oil, place on a baking sheet and roast until soft and almost collapsing. Remove from the oven — turning it down to 160°C — leave the aubergines to cool, peel away the skin and discard. Scoop out the flesh, putting it in a sieve placed over a bowl to catch excess liquid. In a bowl, mix together the lemon juice, yoghurt and sesame paste, which will thicken. Mash the aubergine well, then add to the yoghurt with the watercress and plenty of seasoning.
2. Brush the partridges with butter, season, then brown them on all sides over a medium heat on the hob. Roast them for 30 minutes — until the juices run clear — then leave to rest so the juices disperse. Carve off the breast meat, joint the legs and arrange on a dish.
3. Put together the salad: mix the watercress and tarragon leaves with the white cabbage, then combine the dressing ingredients with a tablespoonful of water in a jar and shake before seasoning to taste. Mix well into the raw vegetables. Spoon the moutabal (aubergine mixture) in three heaps on to a platter, scatter the salad in between and place the partridge pieces on top. Eat with bread and pickled green chillies (guindillas) for an extra kick.
Why it’s wise to carve game before serving
A chef friend, anxious to put gamebirds on his menu in a London restaurant, phoned in despair shortly after the first attempt. He’d offered wild duck, roasted whole as a single helping and served with all sorts of good seasonal bits and pieces. Back in the kitchen at the beginning of the evening’s service, he had been chuffed as waiters dashed in with a flood of orders.
Out went the duck, beautifully cooked — pinkish breast meat, skin crisped after a brushing of maple syrup in the later stages — yet half an hour later, he stood, utterly bewildered as plates came back, the birds almost uneaten.
The customers, it transpired, loved the flavours but couldn’t tackle a whole bird. Is this ignorance or pure laziness? Or was it a sort of squeamishness derived from too many years of eating fowl that has been deconstructed into breasts, drumsticks, wings and so forth?
I told him that, from my experience, serving small birds such as partridge, quail, grouse and duck at home is purely a practical problem. “Which knives did you give them?” I asked the depressed chef. The usual table knives were laid on the table, he said. Herein lies the problem — gamebirds can be a fiend to get to grips with and it has nothing to do with tenderness.
To fillet as much meat as possible from a miniscule carcass you need, or I certainly do, something akin to a steak knife. I hope the chef’s problem was solved, but I also sympathise with his diners’ dilemma.
So as a favour to your guests, it can be kinder to do a little pre-butchery for them.