Roast partridge with juniper and thyme

The flavour of the medlar gravy adds a tasty twist to this autumn dish.


Serves 4

4 young, plum partridges
6 bushy little springs of thyme
12 juniper berries
100g butter
8 thin rashers green bacon
2 pears
a squeeze of lemon juice
2 tablespoons medlar jelly
a glass of vermouth or white wine


Achieving the perfect results

  1. I always check the birds all over before I start for any stray feathers or bits of shattered bone. Set the oven at 220˚C/Gas 8.
  2. Pull the leaves from the thyme branches and mash them with the juniper berries, butter and a hefty pinch of sea salt and black pepper using a pestle and mortar. Reserve a tablespoon for cooking the pears then spread the butter all over the birds but particularly on their breasts.
  3. Lay each piece of bacon flat on a chopping board then stretch each of them with the flat of a knife blade to give longer, thinner rashers. Wrap the rashers round the birds and place in a roasting tin.
  4. Cut the pears into thick slices, toss them in a little lemon juice, and cook briefly in a little of the herb butter in a shallow, non-stick pan. When both sides are pale gold transfer them to the roasting tin.
  5. Roast for 20 minutes, then peel off the bacon, setting it aside if it is crisp enough or leaving it in the roasting tin if not, then return the bird to the oven for a further 10 minutes roasting.
  6. Remove the birds and pears from the tin and leave to rest in a warm place, covered with tin foil. Put the roasting pan over a low to moderate heat, pour in the vermouth or white wine and leave to bubble for a few minutes then add the jelly, stirring until it is dissolved. Correct the seasoning then serve the birds, pouring over the medlar gravy from the pan.

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