THE STORY goes that a confessor of one of the French kings reproved him for his conjugal infidelities and was then asked by the king what he liked best. “Partridge” replied the priest and the king then ordered him to be served with partridge every day until he quite loathed the sight of his favourite dish.
When the king eventually visited him and asked if he had been well served, the confessor replied “but yes, partridge always partridge”. “Ah! Ah!” replied the amorous monarch, “and one mistress is all very well, but not partridge, always partridge”.
” Presumably the priest”s partridge would have been the red legged French variety which is now preferred over here from a rearing point of view, than the better-tasting grey-legged English bird.
Partridge has an arguably superior flavour to pheasant possibly because, according to some gamekeepers, they tend to roam further from base and hence have more wild food. But like pheasants, the younger birds are better for roasting although their subtle flavour can be spoilt by over hanging (1-3 days is ideal) or by serving with strong-tasting accompaniments.
One bird per person is generous but it saves the hassle of splitting them in two between cooking and serving and giving each person a whole bird makes for a sense of occasion.
While some people cook the partridge with a strip of bacon “to cover its modesty” I”ve blended the bacon in a parsnip mash to produce a delicious accompaniment. For those on a post-festive health kick, the low calorie but nutritious carrot and ginger soup with its glorious golden orange colour and hint of ginger makes a very warming meal on a cold bleak winter”s day. As well as catching the tail end of the partridges, clementines too, are nearing the end of their season.
I know that caramelised clementines sound like a throwback to a 1970s dinner party but this dish does make a light and delicious pudding.