‘Val’s cooking style is right up my street-he has a flair for taking British ingre-dients and giving them exotic twists. Partridge is one of the more versatile gamebirds. The flesh tends to be juicier than pheasant and not quite so gamey, but still with that distinctive deep flavour that makes wildfowl so delicious. It’s robust enough to take strong seasoning, too. Cook outside on the barbecue and enjoy what I hope will be a long, lingering Indian summer. Otherwise, cook on a char-grill, and marvel at how sweet and sticky it becomes when it hits the grill’

Thomasina Miers

Tandoori partridge

Extract from Valentine Warner’s
The Good Table: Adventures in and Around My Kitchen Published by Mitchell Beazley

The partridge season starts in early September, when you can see some excellent weather for barbecues (although having said that, I light them all year round and put a big coat on, if needs be). Ideally, the partridge will be grilled over charcoal, as this is the closest thing to a tandoor (Indian clay oven), but a gas barbecue will suffice. Use a preheated griddle pan to cook the partridge if you don’t have access to a barbecue.

This recipe is not an attempt to transform the usual chicken tandoori into something quirky. In India there are various francolins (or teetars as they are known locally) that are close relations of the partridges found in the UK, and these are no strangers to a dusting with spices. It is important that powdered spices are as fresh as possible. Kept all higgledy-piggledy in a dusty box with the lids half off, they will very quickly lose their individuality. Using a pestle and mortar and whole spices makes spice grinding a more personal experience. If doing so, estimate the amount you need to replicate the spoonfuls of the pre-ground powders. Excuse the food dye but I like the restaurant red.

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 partridges
Marinade
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons turmeric
1½ teaspoons ground coriander
Half teaspoon ground cinnamon
A good grating of nutmeg
6 cloves
Seeds from 10 green cardamom pods
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons flaked sea salt
1 thumb-sized piece of root
ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled
Half small onion, roughly chopped
250g full-fat yoghurt
Juice of half lemon
Red food-colouring paste
(optional)

To serve

Lemon wedges
Chopped iceberg lettuce
Sliced red onion
Naan bread

Method

To make the marinade, put the spices, salt, ginger, garlic and onion in a blender and blitz until as smooth as possible. Turn the paste out into a large bowl, then stir in the yoghurt and lemon juice. Stir in the food-colouring paste, if using. (Ideally, use colouring paste designed for cake decorating, as liquid food colouring won’t tint the marinade sufficiently.)

Remove the skin from the partridges and cut each bird in half, first along and through the breastbone and then the spine. Score the thighs and breasts lightly several times with a sharp knife. Drop the halved partridges into the tandoori marinade and turn them over until all are well coated. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 3 hours. About 45 minutes before serving, light a small charcoal barbecue and let the flames die down to hot coals.

Take the tandoori pieces out of the marinade and tap off the excess. Put the birds on the barbecue and cook for 6-8 minutes on each side, or until the meat is nicely charred but tender and cooked through (take care not to overcook them so that they become dry). Serve with lemon wedges, iceberg lettuce, red onion and naan bread.

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