Roast Partridge with Mushroom and Cavolo Nero Risotto

Foraging through my freezer is always entertaining. At the moment there’s a haunch of venison (wedding present), lamb shanks, ox tongue, ox cheeks, beef bones for stock, fish head for stock, frozen wine ice cubes

I decided that it was time for The Grand Unfreezing, and have resolved not to go to the shops for a few days until I’ve worked through a bit of the backlog. Now, I admit I’m not good at labelling things which go in my freezer, so when I took out a hulk of mystery meat yesterday, I thought it was a brace of pheasant. But as they thawed, they started to look like extraordinarily small pheasants…and then it dawned on the that they were the partridges my old flatmate had put in the freezer last year.

I sent him an apologetic text explaining that now I’d defrosted them I’d better eat them (I’m reuniting him with his remaining two partridges tonight), and rubbed my hands at the fortunate mistake, and the prospect of a partridge supper.

The best thing about cooking partridge is that they only need a very short blast in a very hot oven. Twenty minutes, like a ready-meal. And at Ocado, they’re ready meal-price at the moment too (£2.99), making them an affordable luxury round this time of year.

Roast Partridge with Mushroom and Cavolo Nero Risotto
Serves 2

Knob of butter
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 large forestiere mushroom
100g risotto rice (though I used pudding rice in pic, due to lack of arborio in my cupboard…)
500ml chicken stock (or 400ml chicken stock and 100ml wine/frozen wine)
4 cavolo nero leaves, sliced
20g grated parmesan
Black Pepper

2 partridges
2-4 rashers smoked, streaky bacon (it’s really worth using nice bacon – I had a couple of rashers from Hill & Szrock.)

1. Preheat the oven to 220C

2. While the oven is coming up to temperature, start the risotto by heating the butter in a frying pan, and cooking the onions for 5 minutes until they have softened a little. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for 1 minute, then add the rice to the pan. Stir briefly, just so the grains are coated. Pour in all the chicken stock, and allow to simmer, stirring from time to time.

3. Because partridges are only little birds, I used only used one rasher per bird, and cut it in half lengthways, so there were two shorter strips which fitted snugly over the breast. Put the birds in the hot oven, and roast for 20 minutes.

4. Once the birds are done, the rice should have absorbed all the stock. Stir the cavolo nera leaves into the risotto along with the parmesan, pepper, and add any meat juices in the partridge pan.

5. Divide the risotto between two shallow bowls or plates, and apportion one partridge per person.

6. Serve with a generous dollop of chilli jelly (optional).

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