Roast Partridge with Sweet Chestnuts, Wild Mushrooms and Bacon
A classic combination of late-season flavours that would make an excellent wild alternative to turkey for Christmas (and much quicker to prepare). You’ll need one partridge per person. Serve with mashed root vegetables and steamed greens, or the usual festive side dishes.
- 4 oven-ready partridges, about 300g each
- 25g butter, softened
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 rashers streaky bacon
FOR THE STUFFING
- 25g dried wild mushrooms (use those with a good rich flavour, such as penny buns or other boletes, trooping funnels or St George’s mushrooms)
- 25g butter
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 200g good-quality pork sausages, skinned
- 2 tablespoons fresh white breadcrumbs
- 100g cooked sweet chestnuts (see note below)
- 1 tablespoon picked thyme leaves
- Zest of 1 lemon
FOR THE GRAVY
- 150ml Madeira
- Couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce
- 300ml chicken stock
- About an hour before you plan to cook, remove the partridges from the fridge. Rinse them inside and out, dry them with kitchen paper and leave to come up to room temperature while you prepare the stuffing.
- Soak the dried mushrooms in 150ml boiling water 20 minutes. Lift the mushrooms from the soaking liquor and chop them finely. (Reserve the soaking water for the gravy).
- Heat the butter in small frying pan and gently cook the onion for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes over a gentle heat. Scrape out onto a plate to cool. Preheat the oven to 200˚C.
- When the mushrooms and onions are cool, set aside 1 heaped tablespoon of the mixture and put the rest in a mixing bowl with the sausagemeat and breadcrumbs. Crumble in the chestnuts and add the thyme and lemon zest. Mix well with your hands, then use the mixture to loosely stuff the partridge cavities. Don’t pack them too tightly as this will slow down the cooking. Roll any remaining stuffing into golf-ball-sized balls.
- Smear the softened butter all over the partridge breasts and legs, then season lightly and wrap each bird in 2 rashers of bacon. Put the birds into a large roasting tin (it needs to be big enough that they are not touching each other) along with any stuffing balls, and roast for 20 minutes, basting once, then remove the stuffing balls to a plate and cover with foil. Return the partridges to the oven and roast for another 10–20 minutes (basting every 10 minutes) until golden brown and cooked through (check by piercing the thickest part of a leg: if the juices run clear, they’re ready. If not, return to the oven for a few more minutes and check again). Lift the cooked birds to a large plate and leave to rest for 20 minutes, covered loosely with foil, while you make the gravy.
- Add the reserved onion and mushroom mixture to the juices in the roasting pan and set over a medium heat. When it starts to sizzle, add the Madeira and cook rapidly until reduced by half. Add the chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce and reserved mushroom soaking water (pour it in slowly and discard the last few tablespoonfuls, which will be gritty) and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve the hot gravy with the partridges and stuffing balls.
* To prepare sweet chestnuts start with roughly double the weight of peeled cooked chestnuts you need. Using a strong, sharp knife, cut a slash in the skins of the nuts right around their middles. Put the slashed chestnuts in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer until the skins start to split. Turn the heat under the pan to low, to keep the nuts hot as you work. With a slotted spoon, lift out one chestnut at a time and, using a tea towel or rubber gloves to protect your hands from the heat, quickly peel off the skin. With any luck, the inner, fibrous husk will come away with the outer shell, but if any of it remains on the chestnut you should be able to scrape it off with the back of a knife. If not, return the chestnut to the pan for a few minutes and try again. Discard any chestnuts that are mouldy or rotten. When all the nuts are peeled, return them to the rinsed-out pan and cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until tender to the point of a knife.
Recipe and photos by Otherwise for Wild Food UK