Partridge with pancetta and lentils

Partridge with pancetta and lentils

Leiths How to Cook
Peter Cassidy


Quantity Ingredient
200g puy lentils
1 onion
100 g piece pancetta, plus 4 thin slices for barding
2 garlic cloves
small bunch thyme
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 oven-ready partridges
600ml Chicken and veal stock
150ml marsala
freshly ground black pepper


  1. Soak the lentils in cold water for 30–45 minutes, then drain.
  2. Halve, peel and finely chop the onion. Derind the piece of pancetta and cut into small dice. Peel and crush the garlic. Finely chop enough thyme leaves to give you 1–1½ tablespoons and set aside 2 whole sprigs.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large flameproof casserole. Sprinkle the partridges with salt and fry over a medium heat until golden brown all over. Remove from the casserole and set aside to cool a little, then wrap the slices of pancetta over the breasts and secure with string if necessary.
  4. Add the pancetta dice and onion to the casserole and cook gently until the onion is soft. Increase the heat and allow the pancetta and onion to turn golden. Add the garlic and cook for a further 1 minute. Add the drained lentils with the thyme sprigs and stock and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Return the partridges to the casserole, cover with a lid and simmer gently over a low heat until the partridges are cooked and their legs will wobble when pulled, about 10–15 minutes for very small partridges. The partridges are likely to be cooked before the lentils are tender, so remove them from the casserole and keep them warm while the lentils finish cooking.
  6. When the lentils are tender, drain and set aside, reserving any liquid; discard the thyme sprigs. Add the Marsala to the casserole and reduce by half, then add the reserved liquid and simmer until syrupy. Add back the lentils with half of the chopped thyme, heat through and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Carve or joint the partridges. Place the lentils in a deep serving dish, arrange the partridge joints on top and sprinkle with the remaining chopped thyme.


  • Pheasant breast with pancetta and lentils: Replace the partridge with 4 large pheasant breasts and omit the pancetta slices used for barding. The breasts may take less time to cook than the whole partridge, so prepare the lentils as for the main recipe and in the meantime season the breasts and fry until brown and the skin is crisp. Place the breasts on top of the lentils as for the main recipe, cover and cook for 10 minutes, or until the meat is just cooked through. Remove the breasts and keep warm while you finish the lentils, then serve as above.

    Partridge with pesto and lentils: Omit the diced pancetta and replace the Marsala with white wine. Proceed as for the main recipe, stirring in 1 large tablespoon pesto in place of the chopped thyme in step 6. Finish with a sprinkling of torn basil rather than chopped thyme.
Leiths School of food and wine
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