A Partridge in a Pear Tree – the association between partridge and pear is represented here by serving a honey roast pear as an accompaniment. The other flavours used in this dish can be varied somewhat depending on what is most readily available, but I have furthered the orchard theme by stuffing the partridge with quince and finishing the sauce with a crab apple Verjuice. Verjuice was used before lemons became widely available. In wine producing countries it was made from the juice of unripe grapes, in Britain the juice of crab apples was used to the same effect.
12 rashers of thinly sliced smoked bacon or pancetta
2 tbsps honey
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
8 sprigs of thyme
1 tbsp brown sugar
Verjuice (or substitute Perry, Cider, or Lemon Juice)
Crab apple jelly (optional)
Season the insides of the partridges and insert slices of quince. Preferably the quince should be poached first until softened in sweetened white wine (see recipe), but if you add them raw they will still scent the partridge beautifully even if they remain too firm to eat in the brief time it takes to cook the partridge. Cover each partridge with thin slices of bacon and place the birds in pre-soaked clay baking bricks if you have them. This, I have found, is the best way to keep the birds tender during cooking, but you can open roast them if necessary.
If using the clay bricks they should be placed in a cold oven with the temperature then set to 230˚C. The partridge will cook be cooked in about 50 minutes. If open roasting, pre- heat the oven to 200˚C and roast the birds for about 40 minutes.
The pears need to be roasted at a lower temperature – 180˚C, and will take about 45 minutes. Slice each pear in half lengthways, leaving the stalk in place. Put the pear halves in a roasting tin, skin side down. Mix together the honey, balsamic vinegar and a tablespoonful of the verjuice. Season the pears and then spoon the honey dressing over each half. Top with a sprig of thyme, a couple of flakes of butter and a little brown sugar. Keep an eye on them as they cook to make sure that they are not getting too dark, adding a little verjuice to the pan if required.
When the partridges are cooked remove them from their cooking vessel and deglaze this with a little verjuice. Remove the pears from their roasting tin and add the partridge juices to the thicker sticky left from roasting the pears. Taste and adjust the flavours as required – you might want more verjuice or some crab apple jelly.