Partridge with Harissa

partridge, aubergine and harissa

The Red-legged Partridge is a small game bird introduced to Britain from mainland Europe (particularly common in France and Spain) in the 18th Century . It’s estimated that there are between 72,000 and 200,000 breeding pairs in the UK. The shooting season for partridge is a month longer than for pheasant and runs from Sept 1 – Feb 1. See my post here for plucking and dressing.

danny partridge

Having roasted and pot roasted large numbers of partridge in the past, I thought I’d try something a little different today.

Partridge and Harissa Recipe (serves 1):

1 partridge per person
1 medium onion (chopped)
6 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
2 medium tomatoes (grated)
1/2 aubergine (cubed)
1 preserved lemon (chopped)
1/2 pint game stock (chicken is a good substitute)
2 dessertspoons harissa
1 level teaspoon ground cumin seeds
1 level teaspoon ground coriander seeds
14 kalamata olives
2 Bay leaves
2 or 3 splashes of sherry vinegar
olive oil
a pinch of crushed chilli
sea salt and cracked black pepper

coriander and cumin

First of all, warm a level teaspoon of coriander and cumin seeds until they give off a pleasant aroma. Do not let them get too hot and burn. Grind the warm seeds up with a mortar and pestle.


Season the partridge and brown it (using a metal casserole or similar cooking vessel) in some olive oil to caramelise the sugars in the skin. Don’t overdo it, the intention is not to cook the bird at this stage, but to add flavour. When the partridge has taken a little colour, remove it to a plate.

aubergine, garlic and onion

Continue by cooking the onions, using the same casserole and oil, until they go translucent. Sprinkle on a pinch of crushed chilli and add the aubergine and garlic. Cook gently for 5 minutes or so, until the aubergine changes colour.

grated tomato

Grate in the pulp of two medium tomatoes and discard the skin.

preserved lemons

Chop up and add a preserved lemon (you can buy jars of these quite cheaply in London or make your own), along with 2/3 of the ground coriander and cumin (save the rest for later).


Squirt in the equivalent of a dessertspoon of harissa. – a fiery chilli paste from Tunisia, available in most supermarkets. I try to buy Le Phare du Cap Bon Harissa, which is imported direct, as opposed to being a watered down supermarket brand. In point of fact, it is quite simple to make it at home, but it’s handy to have a tube in the fridge.

kalamata olives

The olives go in next, with a splash of sherry vinegar and two bay leaves.

partridge in stock

Pour on half a pint of game stock (chicken will do) and return the partridge to the pot. Put the lid on and place the casserole in a preheated oven at 180º C for an hour. Turn the bird over, taste and adjust the flavours after 30 minutes. I used another spoonful of harissa and a splash more of sherry vinegar. Harissa tends to dissipate a little with cooking, so don’t put it all in at once.

Rough Houmous recipe:

125g dried chickpeas (soaked and cooked in a pressure cooker)
2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
1/2 teaspoon tahini
the juice of half a lemon
ground cumin and coriander seeds
sea salt (to taste)


In the meantime and in keeping with the Moorish theme, I cooked some chickpeas in a pressure cooker.

chunky houmous

I fried a couple of finely chopped garlic cloves in olive oil and mixed in the chickpeas, the remaining cumin and coriander, along with half a teaspoon of tahini. I poured on a little cooking liquid from the chickpeas, squirted on the juice of half a lemon (fresh this time) and roughly mashed this up with a potato masher to make a chunky houmous. Sprinkle on sea salt to taste. Serve with the partridge, as per mashed potato.

partridge and harissa

The partridge, aubergine and harissa tasted amazing and the rough houmous made the perfect accompaniment, even though I do say so myself.

I recommend drinking a Spanish red with the partridge, such as Can Feixes Tradició Crianza.

Other Partridge posts

About Mad Dog
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8 Responses to Partridge with Harissa

  1. Eha says:

    Fascinating tho’ getting a partridge would be an on-line job here and I may just try with a different bird first to taste the flavour. Preserved lemons no problem: grow and make my own. Home-made chicken stock but bought harissa . . . the big surprise were the olives . . . but, because of them I would actually want to make the dish soonest . . . hope some friends coming to stay overnight will enjoy . . .

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Eha! Partridge is quite a mild game bird and not far off chicken, so poussin would be a good substitute, or failing that, any small chicken. I hope you enjoy it – I will be cooking it again very soon.

  2. Ron says:

    Indeed a lovely twist to cooking a partridge. We don’t see fresh partridge much here, but we do have some lovely Point-of-lay Pullet in the butcher shop just now. I think they will be wonderfully spicy cooked with your Moorish recipe. I also really like the rustic hummus idea and can see how it would work well with this recipe.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Ron. I’m sure it would be fantastic with a pullet and yes, the houmous flavour was wonderfully complimentary to the harissa and aubergine – obviously, being thicker, it was more like rice or mash and good for absorbing the sauce.

  3. Michelle says:

    We don’t have partridge around here (I think they do in the Northwest?). Are they kind of like a large quail? Anyway, sounds/looks delicious. Can hardly go wrong with harissa and preserved lemons…

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Michelle – they are about the size of a pigeon, so perhaps the same as some larger quail breeds. It’s the sauce that makes it though, so any small birds would be perfect.

  4. Ooh, that’s different! Some gorgeous flavours here and love the idea of serving with the hoummous. I use the same harissa, it’s so good.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Tanya – it’s said that the peppers used for harissa were probably taken to Tunisia by the Spanish in the 16th century.
      …and harissa goes so well with aubergines!

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