Celeriac purée, Savoy cabbage and spiced breadcrumbs match gamey partridge magnificently.
4 partridges, plus their hearts and livers
1 litre/1¾ pint game stock
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 tbsp olive oil
140g/5oz unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
2 garlic cloves, left whole and crushed
4 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 carrots, trimmed, peeled and roughly chopped
2 celery stick, roughly chopped
700ml/1¼ pint Madeira
3 tsp bramble jelly
4 tsp sherry vinegar
Prepare the birds by removing the legs and breasts, retaining the carcass for stock. Remove the skin from each breast. Flatten the breasts slightly with the palm of your hand, then cover and set aside. Wash and trim the hearts and livers and set aside.
Place the carcasses in a medium saucepan and cover with the game stock. Add one bay leaf and a sprig of thyme, bring to the boil, then simmer uncovered for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, trim and scrape the ends of the legs so the bones are clean. Heat two tablespoons of the oil and 60g/2¼oz of the butter in a large deep saucepan and fry the legs for 1-2 minutes, or until browned all over. Add the remaining bay leaf, two sprigs of the thyme, the garlic, shallots, carrot, celery and peppercorns. Cover the legs with Maderia, bring to the boil then cover and simmer very gently for 40-45 minutes or until the legs are tender.
To make the stuffing, place the chestnuts and prunes in a small food processor and pulse for 30 seconds until finely chopped but not smooth. Stir in the grated apple, thyme leaves and nutmeg and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat the butter in a frying pan and when it begins to foam add the livers and hearts. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook for 30 seconds on each side, basting with the butter as they cook. Remove the livers and heart from the pan, finely chop them then fold into the chestnut mixture. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and divide the mixture into four equal portions. Set aside and leave to cool.
Place a slice of Parma ham on a piece of cling film. Sandwich a portion of the stuffing mixture between two partridge breasts, place at one end of the ham and roll up tightly. Wrap with the cling film, twisting the ends to make an even cylindrical shape. Repeat with remaining breasts and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the caramelised shallots. Place the shallots and butter in a small saucepan. Cover with a tightly fitting lid and cook on a medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes, or until the shallots are very tender. Keep warm until ready to serve.
To make the crumbs, heat the butter in a small frying pan until beginning to froth. Add the breadcrumbs and stir until the butter has been absorbed. Stir in the spices and continue cooking, stirring all the time, for two minutes or until the crumbs turn golden-brown. Stir in the parsley and lemon zest, then transfer to a bowl and set aside until ready to use.
For the celeriac purée, place the celeriac, butter and thyme in a medium saucepan. Cover and cook on medium heat for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the celeriac from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Stir in the double cream and continue to cook covered for another 15 minutes until the celeriac is very soft. Blend with a hand-held blender until smooth – you may need to add a little extra cream if mixture is too thick. Season with nutmeg, salt and freshly ground black pepper and keep warm until serving.
When the partridge legs have been simmering for 45 minutes, remove them from the liquid and cover to keep warm. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine sieve into a clean pan, then strain the game stock into another clean pan. Bring both to the boil and simmer until the mixtures have reduced to one third of their original volumes.
Combine both reduced liquids and continue to simmer until it begins to thicken. Lower the heat then whisk in the bramble jelly followed by 50g/1¾oz of the chilled butter cubes. Keep warm until needed, stirring occasionally.
To finish the partridge breasts, preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Heat a large ovenproof frying pan and add the olive oil. Remove the cling film from the partridge breasts, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook for about four minutes or until golden-brown all over. Halfway through, add 30g/1oz butter and the remaining sprig of thyme and baste the breasts until they’re cooked though. Transfer to the oven for five minutes then cover loosely in foil and leave to rest for five minutes.
Blanch the cabbage for 1-2 minutes in boiling salted water, until just tender. Drain, then return to the heat with butter. Stir until well coated with the butter, then season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
To finish the partridge legs, melt 35g/1¼oz of butter in a large frying pan, add the legs, skin-side down, and the caramelised shallots. Cook for two minutes, or until the legs have browned, then turn them over and add the sherry vinegar and a tablespoon of the Madeira sauce. Bring to a gentle simmer, then baste the legs and shallots with the sauce until nicely glazed.
To serve, use a 3cm/1¼in round cooking ring to make a neat stack of breadcrumbs on each plate. Smear a portion of celeriac purée on each plate. Slice the ends off the partridge breast parcels and cut each into three sections; arrange on top of the celeriac. Use a 6cm/2½in cooking ring to make a neat shape of Savoy cabbage and top with the partridge legs. Spoon a few shallots onto the plate and drizzle a little sauce over the breasts and legs. Serve the rest of the sauce in a small warmed jug.
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