Autumn sees the start of the English shooting-season. Few things could be finer or more quintessentially English, than the sight of ‘the guns’ returning; flushed with pride & resplendently decked with braces of partridge & pheasant. This is British cooking at its best.
Though the guns may be in top form; the game-birds still require a little longer to reach their peak. A few more weeks of feasting on autumn’s ripe harvest should give them that all important layer of fat which ensures succulence & flavour. Always therefore pick game with the heaviest marbling of fat. It will pay off in the eating!
For such a traditional thing, you may be surprised that I’ve chosen a German accompaniment – sauerkraut. The match is one made in heaven! The slight astringency of the wine-pickled cabbage, compliments the rich heady taste of game wonderfully. All you need is a good dollop of English mustard and you’re good to go!
Start with the sauerkraut. Sauté smoked-bacon pieces / lardons in a heavy-bottomed pan. Once brown, add a little butter, onion and garlic. Cook until the onions start to brown then add your drained, rinsed pickled-cabbage. Try to go for a type that’s been steeped in white wine and vinegar; the flavour is better.
ALWAYS rinse pickled cabbage, whether from packet, jar or can. If not, the flavour will be vinegary and unpleasant. That’s the quality that puts many people off. When it’s done properly it truly is a culinary inspiration!
You want to make sure the cabbage carries quite a lot of water from ‘the rinsing’ as it goes into the pan. This will prevent the dish from drying out. Crumble on a couple of chicken stock-cubes, season, then place the lid on the pan. Simmer on a very low heat for approximately an hour, checking periodically that the mix still has sufficient liquid to steam & not dry out.
Meanwhile, wrap your partridge in streaky-bacon and place a little sage-butter in the cavity (sage-butter? literally as it sounds). Season well, making sure that the skin has sufficient salt to crisp. Sprinkle with a final dusting of sage then place BREAST-SIDE-DOWN in a roasting dish. Then into a hot oven.
Why breast-side-down? The butter, and what little fat there is on the carcass; will melt and diffuse into the breast-meat, preventing dryness. Roast for 20 minutes until browned, then turn over in the tray. Re-season the breast-side then bake for a further 20 minutes until golden. Take out of the oven, cover in foil and leave to rest for 15 minutes or so, retaining the juices in the pan.
Place your green vegetables into the pan which held the partridge. Toss in the juices to coat, then oven-roast for 10 minutes until they’re cooked-through but still have bite. Now check the cabbage for seasoning and stir in a knob of butter.
Plate up the partridge and serve a generous spoonful of sauerkraut on the side. Dish up your vegetables and grate a small amount of parmesan on top for added richness.
This recipe really warms the cockles of the heart. Comfort-food doesn’t get more classic than this! And all without carbs.
Thanks for reading and bon ap!