Recently I was watching ‘Masterchef the Professionals’ and chef Monica Geletti set the challenge of spatchcocking a quail and making a rocket pesto (series 12, episode 4 if you want to take a look). She made it look ridiculously easy, but of course being under pressure of being on TV for the first time the chefs didn’t find it quite as easy as she made it look. It did however, give me the idea of replicating said dish at home as we had some partridges sitting in my freezer, and whilst a little bigger than quail, will require the same method of cooking albeit for a few minutes longer.
She set the challenge at 15 minutes to do the whole thing – prep and cook the quail and make the pesto. It took me a little longer, but not too much – largely owing to the fact I was cooking for three and not one. The result was absolutely delicious and I think spatchcocking game birds is definitely the way forward. Excuse the poor quality photos – I cooked it in the evening when it was dark outside, so taking photos in those conditions is never going to give you the perfect shot – but you get the idea.
Spatchcock Honey and Smoked Paprika Partridge with a Rocket Pesto
2 tbsp runny honey
2 tsp smoked paprika powder
1 garlic cloves
70g pine nuts
110g fresh rocket
good glugs of extra virgin olive oil (around 150ml)
approx 50g parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- First prepare the game bird (quail, partridge etc) by cutting up the backbone and remove the innards from it.
- Turn it over and then press down hard so that it lays flat.
- Now you want to make a rub. You could mix honey with smoked paprika – which I did, or you could use sumac, garam masala, cumin, curry powder – lots of options.
- Once you have covered the bird with the rub, heat a griddle pan and when it is hot place the bird down firmly into the pan, breast side first – you want to sear the outside so that it creates the charred lines across it. This will take a few minutes.
- Then turn it over and after a further minute, remove the bird and place on a plate whilst you continue to sear the remaining birds. Once they have all been seared place back into the griddle pan or a roasting dish and cook in an oven preheated to 80 degrees fan – for 7-10 minutes (around 7-8 for a quail, and 10 for a partridge which is a little bigger). To check that they are cooked simply give then a gently prod with your finger. When they are done the flesh will feel firm.
- Whilst it is cooking, lightly toast off the pine nuts in a frying pan (do NOT add any oil) so that the oils are released naturally.
- Place the garlic into a pestle a mortar and pound it until smooth and then add the rocket, followed by the pine nuts. You can do all of this in a mini blender but I think it is nice to have a little bit of texture, hence preparing it in a pestle and mortar.
- Add a little of the oil and some parmesan. You need to taste and see if you need more of any of the ingredients as it is very much down to personal taste. Season as required.
- Once the partridge has cooked sufficiently, remove from the oven and cut in half lengthways.
- To plate up, place a bit of the rocket pesto in the centre of the plate and smear into a round circle, wider than the bird.
- Then place the halved bird on top of the pesto, leaning one half at angles onto the other.
- I also accompanied with a few roast potatoes and some kale, which I had lightly cooked in some oil and some chilli flakes.
To follow I skipped pudding and instead opted for a cheeseboard with some fresh fruit. All in all a deliciously decadent meal and yet very easy to prepare.