_'Hóka-héy, today is a good day to die!' - Crazy Horse, as reported by the Leavenworth, Kansas Weekly Times, 18 Aug 1881.
While I wouldn't go quite as far as the legendary Lakota chief, I can definitely say that I've been feeling quite boomps-a-daisy recently.
For one thing, on Monday I went to dinner with other human beings for the first time since 2005. Not just anybody mind - I spent an evening with the lovely and delightful duo of @PeckhamRyeEats and @gi_nav. And not just any restaurant - we went to Pizarro. This is one of those all too rare restaurants - great food served in warm, hospitable surroundings - that you take instantly to your heart. I don't think I disgraced myself either. I even covered the tattoo on my forehead with foundation (Mac Studio Finish, as recommended by The World's Greatest Feminist Theologian @VhatYouTalking). Not that I think there's anything wrong with 'The Ass Daddy', but you never know with some people, do you?
__And for another thing, I'm back in an office at the Maudsley working on an interesting project for a couple of days a week. One of the most corrosive aspects of not having a job is how undermining it is to your sense of self-worth not to be able to answer the question 'What do you do?'. I never understood that before, never realised how fortunate I was to have a career.
I adore the team I'm volunteering with. Now a food blog is absolutely not the place for anything even vaguely 'political'. The last thing you want is to be idly browsing for recipes only to be told that the present government are a bunch of malodorous, scum-sucking wankferrets. No siree Bob. 'Go and live in Russia, if that's you're attitude' says you and quite rightly too. All I will say is that everyone at SLaM performs heroically in the face of an onslaught of budgetary cuts.
Anyhoo. Prompted by the new spring in my step, I thought I might push the boat out and treat myself. We all need a treat now and again.
The season for partridge ends on February 1st, so hie yourself hence to your local butcher now and bag a couple - to eat straight away or to freeze for later. Mine cost £5 for the pair the other week (I froze them), but I noticed the price today at the same butchers is £3.50 each. I called Buntings and they can get you some for £2.99 each. I'm sure they're cheaper outside London.
Including the partridges at £5, the total cost for this meal was £4.30 per person. That excludes store cupboard items, stale bread and stock, but includes all the vegetables, the apple, butter, milk and wine.
Make the bread sauce, braised red cabbage and the fritters (up to the point you drain them on kitchen paper) ahead of time and put in the fridge or freezer as appropriate. Then, once the bird is resting for 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 190C/170C fan, reheat the fritters in the oven and warm the cabbage and bread sauce up gently while you make the gravy.
salt + black pepper
20g softened butter
4 slices streaky bacon, cut in half widthways
a few thick slices of onion
1 tsp flour
a good splash of red wine
200ml chicken stock
1 tsp redcurrant jelly
Season the partridges inside and out and smear the breasts with the butter. Drape four halves of bacon rashers over the breasts of each bird. Put them in a small roasting tin with a few thick slices of onion and roast at 230C/210C fan for 10 minutes. Take the tin out of the oven, move the bacon off the top of the birds and spread around the side of the tin. Return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes. Rest the partridges, covered loosely in foil, for 15 minutes while you make your gravy.
Sprinkle the flour into the tin and scrape with a wooden spoon to mix any sticky bits with the flour and juices. Add a splash of red wine, let it bubble and pour in the stock. Add the redcurrant jelly and simmer for a 5 minutes or so. Season, then strain into a jug.
1 small onion, halved
1 bay leaf
a pinch of nutmeg
250ml full fat milk
about 50g fresh white breadcrumbs
salt + black pepper
1 tbsp double cream (optional)
Stud the halves of onion with two cloves each. Place in a non-stick pan with the bayleaf, nutmeg and butter. Pour in the milk. Bring to a simmer, remove from the heat, cover and leave for an hour. Remove the onion and bayleaf. Add the breadcrumbs and return the sauce to a low heat. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season. Add a little cream if you fancy (this also helps to loosen the sauce if you're re-heating it).
braised red cabbage
makes probably four small portions, but there's not much point in making a lesser amount, so freeze what you don't use
½ small red cabbage, cored and shredded
1 small onion, thinly sliced
a pinch of ground allspice
a pinch of ground/grated nutmeg
1 small apple, peeled, cored and cubed
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt + black pepper
Melt the butter in a pan and sauté the onion until soft. Throw in the spices, stir and add the cabbage, apple, vinegar and a splash of water. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for about an hour. Season.
serves two to three (makes nine)
250g brussels sprouts
500g floury potatoes, in chunks
25g butter, softened
salt + black pepper
flour for coating
Simmer the sprouts in salted water for about 8 minutes. Remove the sprouts with a slotted spoon into a sieve, and hold under a running cold tap so they stop cooking and remain a bright green. Leave to drain. Cook the potatoes in the same water until soft - about 20 minutes. Drain and mash with the butter. Season. Finely chop the sprouts and mix into the potatoes. Allow the mixture to cool and then form into nine balls and roll in flour. Chill for half an hour or more. Fry a few at a time in vegetable oil about 10mm deep until golden and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper. Refrigerate or freeze, as appropriate.
When you want to serve them, reheat in a 190C/170C fan oven for 15 minutes.
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