Partridge in Escabeche

Recipe by Louis Cunningham Hughes
Louis, using one of the Pipers Farm partridges that had been on display over our Chefs Stage, demonstrated this recipe during our final 'Mash-Up' demo, rounding off the 2016 Festival.
"Autumn is a contradiction: it is neither summer nor winter; golden leaves fall in the glare of a warming sun but the cold, sharp wind still manages to take us by surprise. Likewise, Perdiz en Escabeche is a contrast of flavours, mixing the sweet and the sour, the earthy meats against the honeyed sauce. The name en Escabeche comes from the Moorish ‘al sikbaj’ which derives from the Persian ‘sik’ meaning vinegar.
I was given the recipe during a wine tasting with Manna from Devon in Dominio Buenavista, in the Alpujarras. It is normally a low heat, slow cooked affair, almost forgotten in the stove until it is time to eat. However, I have done a speeded up version as my time on the demonstration stage was limited!"
Louis Cunningham Hughes is a Freelance Chef, Food stylist, Blogger on food and wine, and Food Writer.

INGREDIENTS

A handful of sultanas

A handful of toasted flaked almonds

4 partridge breast fillets

1 small onion or 1 banana shallot finely chopped

1-2 cloves of garlic pureed or finely chopped

Olive oil

Butter

1 stick celery (optional but adds peppery flavour)

150ml Fino Sherry (Amontillado is a slightly richer alternative) plus extra for the sultanas

150ml White wine vinegar

Honey (pouring kind)

Parsley for garnish roughly chopped

Alternatives to partridge are rabbit, hare, other game birds and chicken.

METHOD

In a bowl, place the sultanas, cover with sherry to soak for a couple of hours (alternatively use warm water).

Heat the oven to 200C (190C fan).

In a pan, sweat the onion (or shallot, and celery if using) on a low heat until translucent about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic to heat through.

Place a frying pan on the hob and heat up until hot. Using your hands, massage the fillets with oil and season. Once the pan is sizzling hot place the fillets into the pan and sear until the meat has browned, turn over and repeat. Lift the fillets onto a baking sheet and place in the oven, cooking for about 6-7 minutes. Check by pressing the flesh to see if it is slightly resistant to the touch (it should not be hard). Once done keep warm and let them rest for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, deglaze the frying pan with the wine and vinegar mix, add the sweated onions and garlic and bring to the boil reduce by two thirds. Add a knob of butter to give it extra richness and gloss. Stir in the honey using a teaspoon at a time to get the balance you want. It should be tart but with a soothing honey sweetness. Drain the sultanas and add to the sauce to heat through.

To serve, place the fillets on a plate, spoon over the onion and sultanas and then the sauce. Take some flaked almonds and lightly crush them in your fist. Scatter over the meat and sauce. Garnish with parsley.

Saffron rice or sautéed potatoes go well with this, alternatively a chunk of fresh bread, and a glass of sherry.