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Spelt, partridge, dried pears

Partridge is a delicious little bird – ideal for those who don’t like their game too gamey. It’s particularly good enhanced with a hint of fruity sweetness. We like it when pears and partridges come together in the festive season, and luscious dried pears work brilliantly here too.


Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. For the spelt or barley mix, heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and fry gently for about 10 minutes until soft. Add the spelt or barley and stir well. Pour in 450ml stock or water, bring to the boil, then lower the heat. Simmer, uncovered, until the grain is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed – about 20 minutes for spelt, a bit more for barley. If it looks in danger of boiling dry, top up with a little boiling water. Take off the heat and stir in the dried pears, lemon zest and juice, and plenty of salt and pepper. Spread the mixture over the base of a smallish oven dish.

Smear the partridges with the butter and season well with salt and pepper. Push the thyme sprigs inside the birds as best you can – it’s fine if some of it sticks out! Put the partridges into the oven dish, nestling them gently in the hot grain mix. Trickle 125ml hot stock or water over the spelt or barley. Roast in the oven for 30–35 minutes or until the partridges are cooked. To check, insert a skewer into the thickest part – the juices should run clear. Leave to rest in a warm place for 10–15 minutes.

Tip up the partridges so any juices inside them run into the spelt or barley. Place a bird on each warm serving plate with spoonfuls of the fruity grains. Serve with shredded greens or broccoli.

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  • 2 oven-ready partridges
  • About 25g butter, softened
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For the spelt or barley mix
  • 1 tablespoon rapeseed, sunflower or olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 150g pearled spelt or pearl barley, rinsed
  • About 600ml chicken, game or vegetable stock (or use plain water)
  • 50g dried pears, roughly chopped
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon, plus the juice of ½ lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

This recipe is taken from...

Hugh’s Three Good Things