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Perfect partridge

PUBLISHED: 13:03 12 September 2014 | UPDATED: 13:03 12 September 2014




Tina Bricknell-Webb, founder and head chef at Percy’s in Devon, gives traditional roast partridge a stylish twist

The health benefits of eating game are so far-reaching that we would be insane not to include it in our diet. In my opinion it should be universally available on prescription!

In the wild, the animals graze and forage according to what they need. The mixed diet they consume keeps them healthy and energetic and also gives the meat a wonderful depth of flavour. I love cooking with game as it is wild, lean, packed with goodness, low in cholesterol and salt and high in selenium (almost five times that of lamb).Selenium benefits mood, the immune system and is also part of the body’s antioxidant defence system. It is a trace element and has been used in the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular disease and eyesight problems, such as macular degeneration.

In short, not only is game top-quality free-range food, the health benefits that may be gained by including it in your diet are numerous.

The most common nutritional deficiency in the world is insufficient iron, causing symtoms such as depression, anemia and angina; wild venison has significantly higher levels of iron than farmed meats, which is a jolly good reason to master preparing this delicious food several ways: roast, escalopes, casserole, or even delicious venison carpaccio.

I have chosen to cook red-legged partridge as it is a close relation to pheasant and is not on the endangered species list. The preparation method for this delicious bird can also be adopted for wood pigeon, which is most abundant at the end of the summer and considerably less expensive.

At the end of the pheasant season the shoot managers often find themselves with a surplus of cock pheasant – they only need a ratio of one cock to eight hens, so they collect up all the birds and sort them for the next season. The surplus cock pheasant are either killed for eating (necks are wrung so no pellets to worry about!) or they are placed in cages and given away to be released into the wild. So if you know someone who owns a shoot, this might be a rewarding and inexpensive way of filling the freezer to enjoy these delicious birds out of season.

partridge with red cabbage, cumin and garlic

Serves 6

Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour

6 oven-ready partridge approx. 350g each

6 thickly-sliced rashers of smoked streaky bacon, rind removed

12 sprigs of fresh rosemary

150ml olive oil

freshly ground white pepper

string for tying

For the cabbage:

1 large red cabbage (1,450g)

1 tablespoon cumin seed

1 heaped tablespoon garlic puree

2 tablespoons clarified butter or olive oil

85g soft brown sugar

340ml red wine vinegar

salt and freshly ground white pepper

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.

2. Place the bacon in between two sheets of plastic and beat with a mallet until uniformly thin.

3. Remove the rosemary from six of the stalks.

4. Sprinkle some of the rosemary on to each of the beaten pieces of bacon. Grind some white pepper on top.

5. Fold one piece of the bacon and rosemary on top of each of the breasts ensuring it covers the meat well.

6. Tie in place with the string.

7. In a wok or heavy-bottomed frying pan heat the olive oil.

8. Seal the partridge until lightly browned all over.

9. Remove from the pan and rest for 8 minutes.

10. Arrange the partridge in a roasting tray and place into the oven, breast down, and cook for 5 minutes. Take out and rest for 8 minutes. Repeat once more and then tip the bird after the second resting time to see if the juices run clear. If not, cook for a further 5 minutes and rest for a further 
8 minutes.

11. When cooked, remove the string and either serve whole, or pull the legs away from the carcass, arrange on the plates, carve the breasts away from the bone leaving whole and place on top of the legs.

12. Serve with game gravy and the stir-fried cabbage (recipe below).

To make the cabbage:

1. Heat the butter or oil in a large, wide heavy-bottomed pan.

2. Add the garlic and cook until just starting to colour slightly.

3. Add the cumin seed and stir until the garlic is light brown in colour.

4. Add the cabbage and stir to coat evenly with the butter/oil, garlic and cumin seed.

5. Pour over the vinegar quickly and place a lid over the pan.

6. Cook for a couple of minutes and then stir.

7. Cook for a few more minutes, gradually 
turning down the heat until all the vinegar 
has evaporated.

8. Add the sugar and stir.

9. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


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