Sunday, September 24, 2006

Combinations 6: Partridge and Pinot

Sun 17 Sept 2006

Andrew over at Spittoon is hosting this month's Combinations: the challenge to find a wine to match roast partridge, from Sophie's Country Kitchen, by Sophie Grigson.

I've never cooked partridge before, and wasn't even sure I'd be able to get my hands on two of these little game birds (er, sorry, I mean 'on a brace'!). Of course, in this respect I grossly underestimated the Leeds' farmer's market. Last Sunday no sooner had we entered the market than the first thing we saw was oven ready partridges - a snip at £2.50 a throw.

As a slight digression - the farmer's market is, I think, getting better and better. Last Sunday we could have bought a whole hare (and I mean - a whole hare - head, fur and all), a pile of homemade cupcakes (coffee and walnut - very good) and scoff down an excellent pork butty.

Anyway, partridges duly acquired, we also picked up some streaky bacon (from Burtons of Wilberfoss) and headed off to deal with the little birds.

The recipe is lovely and simple. Preheat oven to 220C. Take your partridges and place in roasting pan (pick one in which they are relatively snug). Into the body cavity tuck a knob of butter and a couple of cubes of apple (we couldn't find grapes), and season the birds. Slice the bacon (in our case, in thirds) and cover the breasts with it. Pour over a good 75mL white rioja, and 50mL of good stock (in our case the very good stock left over from cooking the trotter - it was a pretty busy weekend!). Put in the oven and roast for about 25 minutes. Baste frequently.

Eventually the bacon will be looking far too tasty and crispy to leave in the oven, so take it out, baste the birds again, add some more chopped apple and walnuts, and return them to the oven to brown. Eat the bacon.

Once the birds are browned, remove them from the oven and cover with foil, leaving them to rest. Taste the sauce, and boil to concentrate if necessary. Whisk in another knob of butter. And serve with roast vegetables (in our case, potatoes, carrots, onions and some brussel sprouts).

Obviously - you need something to drink with this ... and we opted for a 2004 Balgownie Pinot Noir (£9.99 from Hoult's down in the Calls) from Victoria's Yarra Valley. This was a really lovely wine, with loads of body, and a good combination of earthy and berry fruit flavours. Unfortunately, it wasn't such a smashing match for the dish. Neither Andy nor I had had any idea that partridge is such a light meat. In my case, having grown up on pigeon I pretty much assume any bird smaller than a chicken is going to be a dark dense meat. But partridge is a sort of sweeter, denser version of chicken. I guess partridges tend not to be pumped full of water! So while the wine was fantastic and the dish was fantastic I think if I cooked this again I'd go for a heavy white - maybe even a chardonnay, for a bit of butter and oak to go with the lovely rich sauce. We had a taste of the white rioja we'd used in cooking the bird, but that really clashed with the partridge (which is a bit weird, as the sauce was great!).

This was a brilliant meal. It would be great to serve at a dinner party (easy to prepare, and simple to serve). Be prepared for a lot of mess, as the birds are served whole (one per person is just fine) and they're soo tasty you really have to dig in and clean up the bones as carefully as possible. And the sauce is really tasty, so you need plenty of roast potatoes to mop it all up.

Ultimately, because it's such a feast, even a wine which isn't a perfect match is still, well, a perfect match. This was one of the most complete and enjoyable meals I've eaten in quite a while. I was a bit slack and left out a pudding - but I was still full at 3pm the next day!

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Blogger Andrew said...

Sounds superb! I was going to go for a New World Pinot Noir too (havent yet cooked the dish) but following this I think I will go for a white... or maybe both just to check! ;-)

2:43 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoa! A whole hare? Did it need gutting and everything?

I have a hard enough job jointing the things, let alone skinning and gutting them.

3:33 pm  

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