‘My aunt suggested this recipe to me when I was writing my first book. I couldn’t believe how delicious it turned out to be, despite my initial reluctance to cook with cottage cheese (in those days, I was as suspicious of low-fat food as most people are of lard). The traditional use of the toasts under the birds to collect all the sticky, sweet, meaty juices is quite wonderful’

Thomasina Miers

Roast partridge with apricots, thyme and mascarpone
Extract from Thomasina Miers’s
Cook: Seasonal Recipes for Hungry People
Published by Collins
Feeds 4

Game birds are so underrated. Nowadays, you can go to a butcher and get partridge for a very reasonable sum. They are such small birds that I think they look lovely cut in half down the middle, with each half laid down on individual plates. Their subtle flavour is much less gamey than pheasant and they roast really well. If you can’t get hold of partridge, you can use wood pigeon. This recipe is magic. The stuffing melts inside the birds and the bread sits underneath, absorbing all the flavours and juices of the meat and stuffing. Alternatively, roast extra bread in the pan with the juices and make a partridge-bread salad with lots of raw baby spinach, watercress and a few capers.

Ingredients

3 large slices of bread
75g butter
2 large partridge
125g thinly cut streaky bacon

For the stuffing

180g mascarpone
180g cottage cheese
180g mix of sultanas, raisins and chopped dried apricots
2 heaped tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
2 heaped tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 220˚C/425˚F/gas mark 7. Cut the crusts off the bread and generously butter each side. Cut each slice in half and arrange in two lines in a baking tray. Season the partridge inside and out with salt and pepper. Mix the stuffing ingredients together and push inside the birds.
Place each bird on top of three slices of bread, and cover with butter and slices of streaky bacon.

Roast for 10 minutes, then remove the bacon, basting the birds with the pan juices (do this with the tray out of the oven and the oven door shut to keep the oven hot). Continue roasting for another 5 minutes before reducing the oven temperature to 170˚C/340˚F/gas mark 3-4.

Roast for another 15-20 minutes, then remove from the oven and rest, covered with foil, for at least 10 minutes. This is delicious served with breadcrumbs fried in garlic and butter until crisp and toasted, and heaps of spinach.

It’s traditional in Britain to roast game birds fast in very hot ovens. Another way you can cook a partridge is for 45 minutes at a lower temperature (180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4). It’s simply a matter of preference.

You could also try jointing the roast partridge into breasts, legs and thighs. Dress watercress with walnut oil and toasted walnuts, and toss through the partridge and stuffing.

* Subscribe to Country Life and save up to 41%