This recipe is based on one which I found, believe it or not, in Francesco’s Kitchen by the disarmingly charming Francesco da Mosto. It’s full of pretty picture of Venice, but, to my surprise, it turns out to be an extremely good cook book, with a great deal of intriguing information. He says the recipe comes from Treviso. Your partridges should be plucked and ready to go. You can use the technique just as well with pheasant, guinea fowl, or, I dare say, chicken. You’d just have to vary the cooking times, and put up with the fact that the bird emerges from its bread sarcophagus pale and interesting rather than tanned and sexy. But the flesh is juicy, the flavour intense, the visual impact impressive. Cooked this way, people know you’ve taken trouble. Signor da Mosto stuffs his birds. I didn’t. I served my partridges with cubed potatoes fried in rape seed oil and creamed cabbage. Very jolly.
750g self raising flour
2 tbsp of sea salt
lots of pepper
2 1/4 lemons
Enough shavings of bacon, pancetta or prosciutto to cover the breats of each partridge. The amount will depend on the size of the slices.
Turn on you oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Season the inside of the partridges and pop a quarter of a lemon inside the cavity of each. Add the salt and lots of pepper to the flour, Mix in well. Add the water – 200 – 250 ml – to and mix until you have a soft dough. It shouldn’t be sticky. Take half the dough and roll it out so that it’s large enough to envelope the bird. Place the partridge in the middle and cover with the fragrant shavings of bacon, pancetta or prosciutto. Wrap the dough around the bird and seal the edges thoroughly. Do the same with the other bird. Put them on a baking tray and slide into the over. Cook for 40-45 minutes. It’s a pretty forgiving way to cook a bird which can so easily turn to dry fibres.
CREAMED CABBAGE WITH CURED PIG’S CHEEK
1 small January king
150 g cured pig’s cheek (or streaky bacon)
A smear of vegetable oil
150 ml white wine
150ml double cream
1 tsp juniper berries
salt & pepper
Cut the pig’s cheek/streaky bacon into bits the size of a baby’s little finger. Put into a pan with a little oil and fry gently until the fat runs. Thinly slice the onion and add to the pan. Fry gently until soft. Thinly slice the cabbage, getting rid of any core or heavy ribs. Rinse thoroughly and drain. Put into a pan with the juniper berries and the wine. Cook over a highish heat until the cabbage has softened but still has a bit of crunch and the wine has reduced. Add the cream and bring to the boil, and the dish is not ready