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Eat the Seasons - December 2014


Fruits & Nuts
Apples (Egremont, Russet, Blenheim Orange, Orleans Reinette), Chestnuts, Clementines, Cranberries, Pears, Satsumas, Tangerines
Vegetables & Herbs
Beetroot, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Celeriac, Celery, Chicory, Jerusalem Artichokes, Kale, Leeks, Parsnips, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Red Cabbage, Sweed, Turnips
Meat & Game
Duck, Goose, Grouse, Guinea Fowl, Hare, Partridge, Pheasant, Rabbit, Venison, Wood Pigeon
Fish & Shellfish
Brill, Clams, Haddock, Halibut, Hake, John Dory, Lemon Sole, Monkfish, Mussels, Oysters (Native & Rock), Plaice, Scallops, Sea Bass, Turbot

If you ask almost anyone what meat they associate with December they are likely to answer turkey.  But this is also the perfect time of year to enjoy goose, duck, partridge and pheasant which are all readily available.  The deep, rich flavours of game birds are something to be savoured, and the prospect of roast partridge with cider gravy, pheasant with cavolo nero and bacon or venison and chestnut stew helps me through many a cold winters day!

Now is also the time to eat fresh chestnuts and to enjoy a wide range of hardy vegetables like parsnip, swedes, turnips and sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and pumpkin.  Plus of course the fruits of winter: cranberries and pomegranates. 

Partridges are a tasty and healthy alternative to regular meats like lamb, chicken, beef and pork.  They have a subtle flavour and, in the case of young birds, are best served simply roasted, pan-fried of grilled.  There are two main types of partridge available in Britain: the native grey partridge and the red-legged partridge. The former has delicate and tender flesh which, when young, is pale and full of flavour. It's a small bird, so a whole one feeds one person. Red-legged partridge, originally from southern Europe, is a larger bird with a milder flavour. Partridge is best hung for a few days (the more it's hung the more gamey the meat becomes), with young birds benefiting from a shorter hanging time. Any good game dealer or butcher will sell partridge ready to cook. 

The open season for partridge shooting runs from September 1 to February 1, with November & December being the best time for eating this delicious game bird.

  

Partridge Hotpot

 

Ingredients

  • Allow 1 partridge per person

  • 1kg potatoes

  • 2 leeks – cut into thick slices

  • 2 tbsp plain flour

  • 300ml chicken stock

  • 150ml madeira or sherry

  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme

  • 500g butter

  • 100g smoked pancetta cubed

  • 150g shallots

 

Method:

  • Peel the potatoes and par boil for 5 minutes, then slice

  • Heat 25g butter in a pan, season the partridge and fry until golden brown on all sides. Place the partridge in a hot oven for 5 minutes.

  • Once the partridge are sealed carve the breasts off the bone & take the legs off the carcass.

  • Heat the remaining butter in a pan and sauté the leeks and shallots, add the pancetta and fry until sealed.  Remove the vegetables from the pan.

  • Stir in the flour, and gradually add the stock and madeira to make the sauce.

  • Put the partridge breasts and legs, vegetables, pancetta and thyme in a deep casserole, pour over the sauce.  Layer with the sliced potatoes, dot with some butter and bake in a hot oven for 40-50 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and golden.

For that ‘partridge in a pear tree’ combination, peel some pears and poach them in white wine with a bay leaf, peppercorns and a good slug of cider vinegar.  A small piece of pear will go well with the rich partridge hot pot.