Autumn has arrived and with it volleys of gunfire roll across the countryside as the game shooting season gets into full swing.
Nothing accompanies the chill wind of this changing season better than a hearty meal of well prepared game. The mouth watering scent of seasoned partridge cooking over wood embers melds perfectly with the outdoors.
It may seem like hassle, but the extra effort of starting a fire, tending it, and carefully doing this feisty little bird justice, connects you with your food in such a deep and primal way. Certainly more than turning on an oven and opening a plastic packet of intensively farmed chicken ever will.
Firstly, you will need at least brace of partridge. These can be acquired from any decent butcher or game dealer for a few pounds. They will usually be plucked and drawn ready for you to cook. If you know of a local game shoot, ask the gamekeeper if you can purchase a few. Unless he has already committed himself to a game dealer, gamekeepers are often happy to sell you a few direct.
If it would be helpful for a video on basic game preparation, let me know and I will upload one. I think that if we are going to eat meat, then Men should always have some simple butchery skills to fall back on.
To Spatchcock the bird, place it breast down, take some strong kitchen scissors or game shears and cut down its spine either side, removing the spine completely. Then turn the bird over and push down hard on its breast bone, flattening it out. This way the carcass will cook over an open fire much more evenly.
I simply rubbed this brace down with a mixture of pork lard, garlic, rosemary, thyme, himalayan salt and pepper. If you don't have a stash of pork fat in the fridge for such occasions, butter will suffice. The fat lubricates and moistens the lean game meat.
In a safe place, start a fire. I won't be held responsible for forest fires or burned down Man Sheds! Use some common sense. This fire was constructed on a whim in minutes over an old paving slab, with bricks around it, and the grill from an old BBQ placed over the top.
You could use BBQ charcoal for the fire, but wood fired game is delicious. Use well dried hard wood. I had an old piece of cherry wood that added a wonderful extra layer of flavour. The trick with wood is to wait for the hot embers to cook on. Even so, it is prone to flare ups, so be prepared to sacrifice some of your beverage to quench it!
I like to make sure my Partridge is cooked through, but care needs to be taken it isn't overcooked as it will end up tough. Keep checking the meat and when you think it is perfectly done make a small incision between the breast and thigh and see that the meat around the bones looks cooked.
You will need at least a bird per person, or two or more if you are like me!
Goes great with...
Real ale. This time of year, a good hoppy real ale marries itself perfectly with a feast like this.
If you aren't a beer drinker, a few shots of sloe gin or damson vodka will round this off beautifully.
You could serve this indoors with any manner of great vegetables. But it just seems instinctively right to demolish these hot off the embers with good company, then sit by the warmth of the fire well into darkness swapping stories and having the craic.
Do something different, give this a try and share your experience with us...