We thought we'd give this recipe a try as it sounded incedibly Christmassy - we can thoroughly recommend it! It's also very simple, although it takes a little time to prep the ingredients and in the oven!
225g/8oz bacon lardons
15 pearl onions
2 fresh bay leaves
12 whole peppercorns
300ml/10½fl oz hot chicken or game stock
150ml/5fl oz ruby port
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp clear honey
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp plain flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves to serve
Frying the partridge
Fry the bacon in a large lidded pan or casserole until it turns crisp and brown. Put it aside in a bowl and fry the partridges for 6-8 minutes in the fat leftover from the bacon, turning them regularily until they're browned all over. Put aside with the bacon.
Add the onion, bay leaves and peppercorns to the pan the partridges were cooked in. Fry in the pan juices for 6-8 minutes, or until the onions have softened.
Add the stock, port and sherry vinegar and bring to a simmer. Put the bacon and partridges back in the pan, then cover with the lid and transfer to the oven. Cook at 170C/340F/Gas 3 for one hour, or until the partridges are cooked through and the sauce has thickened a little. If you'd like to brown the partridges a little more, take the lid off for the last 10 minutes but don't let them dry out too much.
While the casserole is in the oven, peel the pears and cut them into quarters. Cut out the core and pips.
Melt the honey in a frying pan and gently fry the pears until caramalised and slightly softened (about 4-5 minutes). Keep turning them or they'll burn.
Set them aside to keep warm.
Mix the butter and flour together until they make a paste. When you take the casserole out of the oven, put the partridges on a plate and cover with foil. Put the casserole dish back onto direct heat and break the flour/butter paste into small pieces, adding to the sauce and whisking all the while, until you have a nicely thickened gravy. Season to taste and put the partridges back into the sauce.
Serve the partridges with the pears. We added some lentils, and a green salad with feta, nectarine and sundried tomatoes.