We’ve written before about our shared love of game, especially the profusion of locally-sourced goodies from my part of the world in the Pennines. As our first birthday beckoned, and we thought of something to raise a fork and a glass to, I picked up a brace of partridge from Stansfield’s in Todmorden with an eye to our celebratory seasonal feast. As luck would have it, work took me to London for the weekend so we conspired to rustle up a hearty wintery meal which would encapsulate many of the tastes and temptations of the first twelve months of our blog, from both north and south.
As we’ve larded and roasted our gamebirds several times recently we decided to use the spendidly-named method of spatchcocking the partridges instead. I turned to the invaluable reference of ‘Game: A Cookbook‘ by Tom Norrington Davis and Trish Hilferty, which Miss South recently gave me. I’ve since found myself lost deep in contents of the book on more than one occasion, admiring Jason Lowe’s photography and hankering after a profusion of gamey delights. Their instructions on spatchcocking are practical and less intimitading that one might expect.
After cleaning the birds inside and out I took a heavyweight pair of scissors to the birds, cutting their backbone out, loosening the wings and legs, and pressing them flat on a chopping board. This last part feels a touch brutal, as you can feel the wishbone pop under the weight of your hand, but the purpose is to flatten the bird so it cooks more quickly and evenly.
Once spatchcocked we coated the birds all over with a seasoned redcurrant jelly glaze, before grilling them for 15-20mins, turning and reapplying the glaze several times. They turned a lustrously dark colour under the grill and smelt richly of barbecued fare. Yum. Once cooked they rested for 10 minutes or so, giving enough time for the flesh to relax, and our hunger levels to get ratcheted up a notch or two…
We wanted to add a touch of ceps appeal with the woodland notes of dried porcini, as partridge and mushrooms are made for each other. Miss South made a great stuffing from the porcini, coaxed back to life in a rehydrating bath of hot water, some leftover focaccia bread, and the last of last spring’s wild garlic which I’d frozen. The chopped, seasoned mix was bound together with an egg and formed into cute balls for a quick blast in the oven. Meanwhile the ‘stock’ of the mushroom-infused water provided the basis of a light jus.
When it came to the vegetables it seemed imperative to tick off more of our wintery favourites. Therefore we just had to feature the robust flavour of kale in this wintery dish. Time to keep it simple, wilting the leaves with butter & some of the porcini liquor to enhance the earthy tones. Bang the lid on the pan to watch the leaves soften and turn a richer shade of dark green. It might be a basic treatment but it keeps the character of the leaves whilst tempering its more ferric edge. As we can never get enough of the joys of the humble spud it was only natural to accompany this with a good potato mash. Celeriac added extra depth and roundedness to the mash, with just a hint of sweet nuttiness.
The partridge was a joy: fabulously full-flavoured meat (without the masochistic ‘gaminess’ factor which neither of us relish much). It’s a perfect, plated-sized portion.There was very little shot, and the legs didn’t have so much of a lean, sinewy nature as the grouse had last year. What a great main, followed up by the delights of the rhubarb and rose cake for afters. Not what most one year olds have for their birthday… I can’t wait for next years meal!