Drag the partridge out of the pear tree Jose Pizarro has a recipe that will make the game bird the star of the Christmas table and relegate turkey to an also ran.
“You will occasionally find game butchers in Spain, but most people come by their brace of partridge or leg of wild boar thanks to friends or by shooting it themselves. In Spain, there is a TV channel devoted to hunting – it is that popular! When you see a bunch of guys in the middle of nowhere with guns, laughing and joking, and taking swigs of something fiery from their hip flasks, it may seem that a day’s shooting is simply a brilliant tactic to get out of the house and avoid all those domestic chores. Not so. Flavour-wise, wild game is rated very highly, and the farmed equivalents are merely pale imitations.
This is the casserole that my family eats on Christmas Eve. The best partridge are from around Toledo – and, of course, Extremadura – but if you can get hold of the English grey-legged partridge, they are excellent. The casserole tastes wonderful just with a crunchy green salad.”
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, sliced
3 medium onions, sliced
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
pinch of sea salt
4 thyme sprigs
1 bottle dry white wine
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
5 flat-leaf parsley sprigs, chopped
Pat the partridge dry, inside and out, with kitchen paper. Tie string around the legs and the wings to keep the birds looking neat. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat the olive oil over a medium heat in a heavy-bottomed, cast-iron casserole and brown the birds on all sides.
Remove from the pan and spoon out half of the oil. With the pan still on the heat, add the garlic and onions and stir for several minutes – you’ll find that the onions will pick up the delicious caramelised residue on the base of the pan. Once this has happened, add the carrots and pepper. Leave the vegetables to sauté for around 10 minutes until they’re soft.
Put the partridge back into the casserole, along with the bay leaves, peppercorns, a small pinch of salt, the thyme, white wine and vinegar. Bring to the boil and remove any scum that comes to the surface.
Cover and leave the casserole to simmer for anything between 40 and 60 minutes – it depends on whether you are using farmed or wild birds. The latter will take longer to cook. Remove the string from the birds, joint them if you wish, then return them to their juices and stir in the parsley.