Pan-roasted partridge breast fillets with spicy crust, nesting on a bed of vibrant grilled vegetables - this dish is such a winner!
Some butchery skills are tough
Filleting poultry or game seems like such an advanced butchering skill: deboning a chicken or duck, you think, totally above my pay grade. Creating those awe-inspiring constructions of three bird roasts, or turducken as they are also known, calls for serious knife proficiency.
Hacking meat off the bone isn't so difficult in itself; but doing it neatly, without waste and keeping the filleted meat in one piece is serious trickery. And then you have to sew up the bird with stuffing usually trying to escape through every hole so it all feels like a minor surgical operation.
No question about it: deboning is quite tricky especially for people who ask their butchers to remove the skin from the chicken fillets, as I once witnessed.
A brace of partridge - no problem
But removing breast fillets from game birds is fairly easy. You can get filleted partridge, pheasant or pigeon breasts from supermarkets on occasion, sold on the sad plastic trays, but if you buy your meat from a good butcher's you're likely to get the whole birds.
Which is not a problem - all you need to do is make an incision with a sharp knife very close to the breast bone, then gently prise the meat off using the knife. Cut the skin off at the back and at the wing and hey presto: two tasty morsels and one sad looking carcass.
How to use the whole game bird?
What to do with the carcass then? No, you by no means chuck it in the bin. I was horrified to find from one of Jamie Oliver’s campaigning programmes that’s what a lot of people do with roast chicken after they’ve eaten the breast meat.
What you do instead is make a fantastic homemade stock, pick the cooked meat off the bone and turn it into another meal of rissoles or pastillas. Thus a brace of small birds will make at least three dinners, including a soup you can cook using the stock.
Any bird is game for this recipe
The recipe below works with any game birds, though I expect grouse is slightly too pricey to be turned into stock. Partridge, quail, pheasant or pigeon are all really lovely and quite cheap.I like to simply pan fry the breast fillets but if you prefer your game well done, you can transfer the seared fillets into a medium-hot oven for ten to fifteen minutes.
Game is good meat: organic, lean and super-flavoursome. I do believe we should eat more game as its another plus is that it can’t be imported from the darkest Peru when out of season…