Partridge with Courgette and Thyme

Delicate

Partridge is perhaps the most delicate of game birds. They come in two sorts: the red-legged and the grey-legged. The grey-legged ones are more expensive and in general they may be hunted for a few days per year only. In all cases it is best to buy them early in the year (September until mid November). The season is short, so don’t wait too long!

The meat of a partridge is lean and tends to become very dry when preparing it. So what to do? Of course! Put a strip of bacon on each breast and transfer the poor bird to a hot oven.
Not really. The bacon will impact the characteristic taste of the partridge which is of course not something you want to do. And placing such a small, lean bird in a hot oven is a massive risk. Just a few minutes too long (simply because something else you are preparing takes a bit longer than expected) and the meat is bone dry. Stuffing the bird doesn’t help, the filling will be moist but the meat will be dry anyway.

The key to an excellent partridge is to be brave enough to use an oven on a really low temperature, meaning the temperature the meat should have when you serve it. Restaurant owner and celebrated Chef Peter Lute introduced this method in the Netherlands.

Another interesting aspect is that, different from many other birds, the legs of the partridge are not that special. They are fairly small and have lots of tendons.
So, no bacon, no hot oven and focus on the breast.

Partridge combines very well with a range of vegetables and herbs. The classic combination is with choucroute (Alsace style). We wanted to link our partridge to late summer by combing it with a thyme-courgette cake. Easy to make and full of flavours.

Wine Pairing

A red wine is preferred, one that is not overpowering, with hints of red fruit, a touch of oak and soft tannins. Our choice was a 2016 Shiraz from Australia: the River Retreat Murray Darling Shiraz. Great value for the price.

What You Need

  • For the partridge
    • One Partridge
    • Two Garlic Gloves
    • Bay Leaf
    • Butter
    • Olive Oil
  • For the thyme-courgette cake
    • One Courgette
    • One Egg
    • Thyme
    • Parmesan Cheese
    • Olive Oil
  • Black pepper

What You Do

Start with preparing the partridge. This means carefully cutting of the two legs and removing the lower part of the back of the bird (the tail bone area, see picture). Warm a heavy iron pan and add butter. Add bay leaf and halved garlic gloves. Coat the bird with butter, making sure you get a very light brown colour. Put the legs on a plate and cover with foil. Now transfer the pan and the plate to a warm oven: 70° Celsius or 160° Fahrenheit. Leave in the oven for 50 – 60 minutes. Since the oven is on the ideal temperature for the meat, it doesn’t really mater if you leave them in the oven for 70 minutes. Remove the two breasts from the bird. Remove the bigger bone from the leg. Coat the meat with the fat from the pan. Transfer to a plate and cover with plastic foil.

Grate the courgette, transfer to a bowl, add a teaspoon of salt, mix and transfer to a sieve. Let rest for at least two hours. Discard the liquid. Wash the courgette with cold water and put the grated courgette in a clean cloth. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Beat the egg slightly; mix with the courgette, the grated Parmesan cheese and a generous amount of thyme. Add olive oil to a fairly hot non-sticky pan and start frying the courgette mixture. This takes longer than expected! In the mean time make sure your heavy iron skillet is heated through and through. Flip the courgette cake and fry the other side. In parallel add olive oil to the skillet, and quickly brown the meat. Separate the tenderloin from the breast and remove the fleece before serving the breasts. If all is well you will see a beautiful pink colour, indicating your cuisson is perfect and your partridge as tasty and delicate as possible. Before serving add some black pepper and extra thyme.

A Classic for you – 1

Ratatouille

Think summer vegetables, think Ratatouille! Which is also a comedy released in 2007 about a rat called Remy with a passion for cooking. If you want to see how he prepares ratatouille then simply enter Remy cooks ratatouille as search term in YouTube (or buy the DVD if you’re old fashioned like us).
Ratatouille brings back memories of summer, of the South of France, of the Mediterranean. Or for some, of their youth. It combines very well with a simple sausage, with lamb, with grilled chicken.
However you prepare your ratatouille, be sure to use courgette or zucchini, aubergine or eggplant, tomato and bell peppers. Also make sure you prepare it a day ahead. The taste becomes much more integrated after a day (or two) in the refrigerator.
Our recipe is very much the recipe of a dear friend. She taught us how to make ratatouille in her summer kitchen, overlooking the pool and the garden with herbs and vegetables. Indeed, fond memories.
To our surprise she added cilantro (you would expect thyme or basil) and many years later we are still grateful for this twist. The cilantro enhances the feeling of summer and it supports the various vegetables in a beautiful way.

We enjoyed our ratatouille with a glass of simple, red wine with lots of red and black fruits. Spicy. A wine that brings summer to your glass.

Here is what you need:

  • Aubergine
  • Courgette
  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Chili Pepper
  • Tomatoes
  • Cilantro
  • Garlic (optional)
  • Olive oil

If you combine 1 of each, with the exception of 3 tomatoes, this will serve 4 people.
Start by cutting the aubergine in small but not too small chunks. Drizzle with salt and mix. Let the mixture rest for a few hours, allowing for the aubergine to loose water and become firm. Best way to do this is by putting the aubergine in a sieve and let it rest above a bowl.
The tomatoes require some attention as well. You could peel them, but that’s optional. What is not optional is to separate the tomato meat and juices from the pits. First step is to remove the internal hard bits and the pits and put these aside. You now have the outer part of the tomato, which you can slice. Cut the remainder of the tomatoes roughly, add to a sieve and by using the back of a spoon make sure you capture the juices. Be surprised about the volume of tomato juice and the small amount of tomato bits that remain in your sieve.
Peel the courgette, slice in the way you sliced the aubergine and fry over medium heat in olive oil. In the mean time cut the bell pepper into long slices and add these to the pan. Continue frying. Add the finely chopped chilli pepper (not the seeds of course). Add the firm aubergine after having removed the remaining salt with water. After a few moments add the tomato chunks, fry a bit more, add the tomato juice (and the optional garlic) and leave on a medium heat for 30 minutes. Try not to stir too much; otherwise you risk creating mashed vegetables. Cool, set aside and store in the refrigerator.
The next day gently warm the ratatouille, add some chopped cilantro, mix and add more cilantro just before serving.