Monday 5 January 2015

Partridge Pastries with Pear and Spinach

Adapted from a recipe of Alain Senderens, this was a splendid first course for dinner on Christmas Day, with the added benefit of being Partridge-and-Pear christmas themed (which hadn't occurred to me in advance, and so was entirely fortuitous). Although the dish has a number of steps, nothing is very complicated, and it is largely an assembly-job immediately prior to serving - as such,  it lends itself well to entertaining.

For four.

Ingredients: 1 quantity puff pastry, made with 500g flour, 75g butter, 2 tsp salt, 1 cup water, 500g chilled butter; egg wash, made with 1 egg and a little cream; 4 generous tbs cooked spinach (frozen spinach is fine); 1 onion, finely chopped; 3 oz butter; pinch nutmeg; 1 pear; half tsp sugar; 50 ml cream; 2 tbs cognac; 1 partridge; zest of 1 orange; 5 juniper berries; half tsp dried thyme; quarter cup marsala; 1 tsp arrowroot; salt & pepper.


1. Roll out the pastry to a thickness of 2mm. Cut out 8 discs of 10 cm diameter each. Put four of them on a greased or lined baking tray, and brush with egg wash. From the remaining four discs, use an 8 cm cutter to remove the centres, then place the outer rings on top of the four bases; put the 8 cm 'inners' also onto the baking tray, brush with egg wash, and mark with cross-hatched lines with the tip of a sharp knife. Place the baking tray in the fridge for 30 minutes, then bake in a 200 degreeC oven for fifteen minutes or so, until risen and browned. Set to one side.

2. Bone the partridge. Put the bones in a small saucepan, cover with water, and simmer for half an hour or so to make stock. Free the partridge skin from the flesh beneath, and stuff under the skin with a mixture of 1 oz butter, the thyme, half of the onion, orange zest, crushed juniper berries, and a little salt (retain enough of the stuffing mixture to make a poultice on top of the bird). Place the prepared bird - with its poultice in place -  to one side, for half an hour at least, then heat the oven to 220 degrees C and roast the bird (it should only take about ten minutes)

3.  Melt half the remaining butter in a small pan, and sauté the remaining onion; when softened, add the spinach, nutmeg and half a tsp salt; stir to combine, and keep warm.

4. Peel, quarter, and core the pear. Cut each quarter into two slices. Melt the remaining butter in a small frying pan, and in this sauté the pear slices briefly, sprinkled with the sugar. Turn the slices over in the sugar-butter mixture, then add the cognac and boil to evaporate, then add the cream and boil for two minutes to thicken. Keep warm.

5. Strain the partridge stock, and boil to reduce. Mix a tsp of Marsala with the arrowroot, and then add this, along with the rest of the marsala, to the stock; it will take five minutes or so to thicken, and at that point check and adjust seasoning as necessary (if you want a more complicated flavour, add a little soy sauce, but in this case be careful not to add too much salt). If you prefer a lighter colourd sauce, add a spoonful or so of cream at the end of cooking.

6. If necessary, re-heat the pastry shells in a warm oven or warming drawer, before putting one each onto a heated late for serving. Divide the warm spinach between the shells, and then place the pear slices in their cream on top of the spinach; take from the partridge four good slices, and place one each on top of the pears. Spoon a little of the sauce over each slice of partridge, and another spoonful on the plate beside the pastry shell, on which place the cooked pastry 'inner'.