I just love Christmas in the kitchen, it’s truly one of my favourite times of the year to cook. I don’t always go for the obvious, although I do love traditional turkey with cranberry sauce and Brussel sprouts. When I want to cook something a bit different, a firm favourite is my ‘Partridge in a Pear Tree’, a dish of partridge, pear, parsnip and chocolate, which surprisingly work very well together as flavours. It’s a real showstopper and great fun to prepare; a festive treat!
- Four partridges, plucked, drawn and singed
- One pear
- Two parsnips, peeled and chopped
- One shallot
- 20g dark chocolate (at least 70 per cent cocoa solids)
- 200ml full-bodied red wine
- 50ml port
- One tsp sherryvi negar
- 100ml whole milk
- Two tbsp butter
- Four leaves kale or cabbage, sliced
- Salt and pepper
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 7. Using a very sharp knife, remove the legs and the breasts from the partridges. Place what remains of the partridges the carcasses on an oven tray and put into the oven to roast for about 20 minutes or until the bones have browned and the juices are caramelising. Leave the oven on; you will need it again soon.
2. Chop the shallot finely. Melt a knob of butter in a medium-sized pot and sweat the chopped shallot. While the shallot is cooking, take the carcasses from the oven and chop them roughly. The reason for this is to fit them comfortably into the pot with the shallots.
3. When you have done so, add the red wine and the port and bring to the boil. Reduce the volume of the liquid in the pot by two-thirds.
4. Pass this reduced liquid through a sieve into a small pot and whisk in the chocolate and the vinegar, off the heat. This will be your sauce. Make sure it does not boil or the chocolate will coagulate and go grainy and lumpy. So, when keeping warm, use a very low and gentle heat.
5. Heat a heavy pan with a knob of butter. Peel the pear, core it and cut
it into lengthways into four wedges. Put the wedges in the pan and roast them until coloured and slightly softened.
6. Heat the milk in a medium pot and add the parsnips with a pinch of salt. Simmer until the parsnip is soft, then transfer the whole lot (parsnip, milk and all) to a blender and whizz with a little butter and seasoning until smooth. Keep warm.
7. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the kale or cabbage leaves and cook until just tender. Be careful they do not get overdone or the texture and the flavour will suffer.
8. Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan. Fry the partridge legs for three minutes, then add the breasts to the pan and let them brown for a few moments. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for a further five minutes. If you want to keep the meat moist and this is really important with partridges you must be really careful not to overcook it.
9. Serve the partridge with the parsnip puree, the kale or cabbage, a wedge of the pan-roasted pear and a little chocolate sauce spooned over the top.
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