This was a different kind of Sunday roast. We are right in the middle of the season for partridge, which runs from September 1st to February 1st in the UK. Partridges are small game birds and are ideal bought as a brace and roasted to make a meal for two people. Like all game, partridges lack fat and need to be cooked in such as way as to stop them from drying out. They also benefit from a good gravy or sauce.
We are also in the season for Brussels sprouts, so pairing them with partridges seems like a good idea to me.
For this dish, I used the following for two people;
2 oven-ready partridges
half a swede, peeled and cubed
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
8 Brussels sprouts, blanched and halved
1 slices of Serrano ham (or a couple of rashers of unsmoked streaky bacon)
150ml of pureed apple and pear compote
1 tablespoon of quince jelly
100 ml chicken stock
1 teaspoon of pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons of cider vinegar
2 tablespoons of cream or crème fraiche
salt and pepper
a few toasted and chopped hazelnuts (see here for how to prepare the hazelnuts)
This is another dish that requires a lot of preparation. These stages can be done in advance.
First, we need to prepare the sauce.
Luckily for me, I already had a quantity of pear and apple compote in the fridge which I simply passed through a sieve to make a smooth base for the sauce. If I hadn’t had this, I would have made a simple purée by cooking a peeled, cored and diced apple and a pear in a couple of tablespoons of water until the fruit was falling apart and used that.
Gently heat the fruit purée in a small saucepan with the pomegranate molasses, balsamic vinegar and the chicken stock. Add the quince jelly and stir until this is melted. Taste the sauce and add the cider vinegar slowly, stirring and tasting until you get the right balance of sweet and sharp. Set aside.
Prepare the vegetables.
Boil the swede, mash and set aside. Blanch the sprouts, rinse in cold water, drain and cut in half. Peel and dice the carrots.
Cook the dish.
Partridges don’t take too long to roast. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Season the birds with salt and pepper and colour them all over in butter with a little oil in a frying pan. Put the birds plus the butter into a roasting dish and cover with the Serrano ham or bacon. Put in the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes. You want the juices to run clear.
While the birds are cooking, reheat the sauce on a low flame. Cook the carrots in boiling salted water and reheat the mashed swede with a knob of butter and some cream or crème fraiche. When the carrots are cooked, drain and keep warm.
Heat some butter in a frying pan and gently fry the halved sprouts, cut side down. Take care, you don’t want them to burn.
When the birds are done, remove to rest. Pour any juices from the roasting dish into your sauce and stir to amalgamate. You want a nice glossy sauce that has a good balance of flavours. Crumble the ham and add it to the frying pan with the sprouts.
Now you can plate up. Keep the partridges whole and serve one each. Spoon some of the sauce over the bird and put the rest into a jug so that you can serve some more at the table.
Sprinkle the toasted chopped hazelnuts and parsley over the sprouts and ham.
You want a decent red wine with this. We drank a bottle of 2012 Château Violette, AOP Moulis en Médoc from the Cave de Grand Listrac in Listrac-Médoc. This is a nice Bordeaux red, 51% Cabernet Sauvignon and 49% Merlot. We bought half a dozen bottles of this wine while we were on holiday in the summer. It should improve for a couple of years but already has a nice balance of fruit and tannins with a nice bouquet and a good finish.