Partridge with Mushrooms, Madeira and Spinach

Autumn. The game season. The gift that just keeps giving. On a regular basis we toddle out to Castle Game and fill our shopping basket. Then and only then do I start thinking about how I'm going to cook it. Today's dish worked exceptionally well. Partridge has a delicate flavour. You have to be careful not to overwhelm it. You also have to be careful not to overcook. Just sear it at the initial stage. It will get its final cook when you are heating everything at the end.

I don't usually do cream sauces, but it goes very well with the mushrooms, and takes the edge off the Madeira. Mushrooms and Madeira are a marriage made in heaven. You can use any type; however, as this is quite a special dish, go for some swankier specimens. Similarly, you could get away with ordinary onion, but shallots are better. Spinach adds a welcome note of bitterness and colour. Cook it in advance so it's cool enough for you to wring out all the moisture. The last minute lemon juice, as ever, closes the proceedings with a zing.

Ingredients (serves 2)

6 partridge breasts; 1 banana shallot, very finely diced; about 150g mushrooms, roughly chopped; good splash of Madeira (about 100ml, maybe more); couple of handfuls of raw spinach, enough to fill a small frying pan (see below); 100 - 150ml double cream or Elmlea; butter; olive oil; s & p; squeeze of lemon juice.


Cook the shallot gently in butter and oil until tender. While that is softening, prepare the spinach. Add a little water and some salt, and wilt the spinach down. This will take just a few minutes. Drain any water, allow to cool, then wring it out to get rid of any excess moisture, Set to one side.

Season the partridge with s & p on both sides. When the shallot is tender, increase the heat and sear the  breasts on each side. Remove from the pan and set to one side. Add the Madeira and bubble to boil off the alcohol. Add the cream and reduce the sauce to the desired consistency. Remember that it must be double cream - single will split if you boil it. Check the seasoning.

Return the partridge to the pan, and arrange the spinach evenly. The dish is ready when everything is heated through. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice before serving.

Tom Cooks! will be back in a fortnight

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