Partridge with Caramelised Onion

partridge with caramelised onion

It’s a bit late for partridge, since the season ended on February 1st, but I’m sure some people (like me) will have a few birds in the freezer …and this will also work perfectly with quail, pigeon and poussin!

shirley partridge

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. See my post here for plucking and dressing.

Partridge with Caramelised Onion recipe:

Breadcrumb Stuffing:
5 slices of stale sourdough bread
4 chestnuts (chopped)
1 slice of onion (chopped)
2 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
the juice of half a lemon
2 teaspoons of herbs (rosemary, sage and thyme – ground in a mortar and pestle with coarse sea salt, black peppercorns and 4 juniper berries)
(finely chopped)
extra virgin olive oil

The Partridge:
1 partridge per person
1 large onion (sliced into rings), chop one ring and use it in the stuffing above
6 whole pieces of garlic (bruised and peeled)
6 chestnuts (quartered)
Breadcrumb stuffing
10 Kalamata olives
1/4 pint game stock
a splash red wine vinegar
salted butter
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper


Cook some bite sized pieces of stale bread and ground herbs with a drizzle of olive oil in the oven, on low, at 120º for about 45 minutes. Do keep an eye on them, so they don’t burn. When the breadcrumbs are brown and crunchy, remove them from the pan.

chestnut, garlic and onion breadcrumbs

Gently fry the single chopped onion ring and garlic for a couple of minutes, before returning the breadcrumbs to the pan.

chopped chestnuts

Mix in the chopped chestnuts. This quantity of stuffing will do at least two partridges – any leftover can be frozen for a another day.


While the breadcrumbs are in the oven, gently caramelise the onion in a mixture of olive oil and butter. I find that this works best in a cast iron saucepan, as opposed to a frying pan, regular stirring is necessary, but there’s less chance of burning the allium. Don’t stint on the olive oil!

caramelised onion

The onion will go golden brown and reduce by about two thirds, becoming sweet and sticky.

partridge stuffed

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon onto the breadcrumbs and stuff the partridge – add a knob of butter inside first, to keep it moist. Put the carmelised onions into a baking tray, along with the Kalamata olives, whole garlic cloves and quartered chestnuts. Place the bird in the middle, splash on a little game stock and red wine vinegar and sprinkle a pinch or two of leftover breadcrumbs on top. Season with salt and pepper. Cook in a hot oven for no more than 20 minutes (or the partridge will dry out)!

onion gravy

Rest the bird in foil (breast down) for ten minutes of so. Add the remaining game stock to the onions and heat on top of the stove to thicken the gravy. Serve with Brussels sprouts and celeriac mash.

This will go nicely with a glass or two of Clos de Torrbas Crianza from the Penedès region of Cataluña.

Other Partridge posts

About Mad Dog
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14 Responses to Partridge with Caramelised Onion

  1. Eha says:

    Well the partridge will have to stay in your pear tree – that and his mates being somewhat hard to get here in or out of season 🙂 ! Lovely way to cook: love the caramelized onions and use of juniper berries (the latter came with birth right!) Looked up your wine: from tempranillo grapes methinks and supposedly so suited to game birds. Then found it awfully interesting that tho” Spanish and Portuguese tins of fish are able to be bought only by lottery winners here, we actually have an awful lot of choice in Spanish and Portuguese wines at very low prices: my favourite on line store having some 20-30 tempranillos at $A13-15 . . . must try at next order . . .

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Eha – I’m sure a chicken would appreciate the same attention if smaller birds are off the menu. You’ve made me think about growing tempranillo grapes down under, since Spain is one of the hottest European countries. I did a search and came across a web page discussing Australian tempranillo wines – something I will be discussing with an Australian friend in Barcelona.

      • Eha says:

        *smile* Thank you for the ‘Wine Selectors’ link, I had looked up Dan Murphy’s – have a slimmer wallet !! Yes, I knew we also were planting tempranillo and where . . . but it is a sad fact that most of what we make is more expensive on the shelf than what we import from Spain! Perchance better quality at times, but . . .

  2. Ron says:

    Mad, that’s a wonderful looking dish. One I’d love to enjoy in a cabin in the forest with the snow falling and the fire burning. I’d like to try this one for sure, likely with a poussin. Question please; We wouldn’t be using the chestnuts (or any nuts) so do you think we should just omit or sub something like pinenuts (about 1/4-1/2 cup) for the chestnuts in the stuffing? Thanks for sharing this one.

    • Eha says:

      Ron – I know Mad will forgive me. Chestnuts are NOT tree nuts and people like Eva who cannot tolerate the latter are 90+ % certain not to be allergic to them. They are called nuts but are not really such.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Ron – I’m sure pinenuts would be a good substitute. I would definitely add them to a stuffing.

  3. A beautiful dish, I love recipes that start with “take 1 (whatever) per person!”. Hope you’re well, Big Man is heading to Spain next week for a couple of weeks, am hoping to get a few days put there too so that I can buy some foodie goodies. We’ll have to wait until we drive over, probably in June, to bring back supplies of this years’ olive oil.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Tanya – I bet the weather is starting to look good, down south. I hope you get your shopping trip – I can find most things in London, but the best shops are miles away in Portobello Road and it’s not quite the same as standing in a Spanish market.

  4. Michelle says:

    Perfect! I don’t think I’ve ever had partridge, but assume it’s sort of like a larger quail?

  5. Conor Bofin says:

    MD, a cracker. I love seeing the huge quantities of onion. It all looks delicious.

  6. Nadia says:

    I do not care for partridge too much but love the recipe so will give it a try with chicken for dinner tomorrow.

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