Partridge Roasted in Vine Leaves

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Vine leaves have the ability to impart their own special flavour to the food they enwrap. Elizabeth David has a fascinating receipt for cooking the commonest of mushrooms in a vine-leaf-lined pot, which makes them taste like the most sophisticated of fungi from the forest. They do no less for these lovely little birds. Vine leaves can now be bought in packets if you don’t have a vine, and I find the best fat for birds is lardo from Italian delicatessens.

Ingredients

  • 4 plump young partridge with their livers
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 slices of pork fat or unsmoked bacon fat to cover the breasts
  • 8 vine leaves
  • 225 g/8 oz butter

Method

Season the birds inside and out and place the slices of fat on their little bosoms. Wrap each in a vine leaf and secure with fine string. Melt half the butter in a pot or frying pan which will take the birds comfortably. Cook the birds at a medium heat on top of the stove until the vine leaves take colour, about 3-4 minutes on each side. The butter should froth a bit and achieve a hazelnut colour. Each time you turn the birds, season with a little more salt and pepper and add a knob of butter until it is mostly used up. After 15 minutes, remove from the heat and let the little creatures rest on their backs for a further 15 minutes.

Remove string and vine leaves, heat the pan again and brown the breasts very lightly, turning gently. The legs should be a nice pink when pierced. Serve on croutons with an endive salad (by endive I mean the one that looks like a small white bomb, sometimes called chicory) scattered with the fried partridge livers if you managed to get them.