Portion/Yield:Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as main course
The combination of partridge, figs, lentils and fresh walnuts is a joy for the palate – the array of different textures and tastes means that every mouthful is interesting and has a story to tell. Throw in a drop of fig vinaigrette and it becomes a fantastic sight for the eye too. This dish is one you wish would never end.
The partridge season stench from late September until end of January, this is enough time to enjoy this delicious game bird in as many recipes as possible. Partridges is a great inexpensive source of protein and low in fat. Partridges are quite mild in taste in comparison to the rest of the game birds. It’s size is perfect to serve one whole bird for a main course or half a bird as a starter.
Ingredients & Method
For the fig vinaigrette
- 100g fresh ripe figs, roughly chopped
- 200ml cold water
- 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 100ml rapeseed oil
- a pinch of caster sugar
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the pan-fried partridge and caramelised figs
- 2 oven-ready partridges (about 250g each)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus
- 1 teaspoon for roasting the partridge legs
- 200g Puy lentils
- 3 banana shallots, finely diced
- 100g horn of plenty mushrooms (trompette de la mort), brushed clean and ripped lengthways into strips
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 fresh ripe figs, each cut into 6 wedges
- 2 tablespoons fresh or ‘wet’ walnuts, peeled and roughly chopped, to serve
- a handful of cress salad leaves, to serve
First, make the fig vinaigrette. Put the figs and water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil over a high heat. Boil for about 8 minutes or until the figs are soft and the water has nearly evaporated. Remove from the heat and add the rest of the vinaigrette ingredients to the pan, then transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. Adjust the seasoning to taste, then transfer the vinaigrette to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until needed (see Cook’s Note).
For the pan-fried partridge, preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Remove the breasts from the partridges using a sharp knife (leave the skin on), then place them in a covered container and refrigerate until needed. Remove the legs from the birds, rub them all over with 1 teaspoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper (discard the carcasses or use them for making stock at a later date). Place the legs in a roasting tin and roast in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the skin is golden brown and the meat is tender. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes. Flake the partridge leg meat while it is still hot, then set aside and keep hot. Discard the bones.
While the partridge legs are roasting, put the Puy lentils in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring up to a gentle simmer over a medium heat, then add a pinch of salt and cook, uncovered, for 15–20 minutes or until the lentils are cooked and tender. Drain, set aside and keep warm.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a non-stick frying pan until hot, then add the shallots, mushrooms and a little salt and pepper and sauté over a medium heat for 5–6 minutes or until golden brown. Add the leg meat and lentils and sauté for a further 30 seconds, then taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Add the thyme and 1 tablespoon of the fig vinaigrette. Remove from the heat, transfer the mixture to a bowl and keep warm.
Meanwhile, to cook the partridge breasts and make the caramelised figs, melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan over a high heat and once it starts to foam, season the breasts with salt and pepper and place in the butter, skin-side down. Cook for 5–6 minutes or until the skin is golden brown and caramelised. Turn the breasts over and cook for a further 6 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown. Add the figs to the pan 2 minutes before the end of the cooking time and caramelise on both sides. Remove the pan from the heat and let the partridge rest for 5 minutes. Drain the figs and partridge and slice each partridge breast.
To serve, spoon a portion of the lentil mixture on to each serving plate and place a sliced partridge breast on top. Arrange the caramelised figs and fresh walnuts around the plates, then drizzle with some fig vinaigrette. Garnish with cress salad leaves and serve immediately.
Store any leftover fig vinaigrette in an airtight container in the fridge and use within 1 week. Serve the vinaigrette with salt-baked beetroot and crumbled goat’s cheese, or serve it with pan-fried grey mullet, roasted figs and toasted cobnuts.