DURING my visit to the newly established Upton Smokery (www.uptonsmokery.co.uk) close to the Oxfordshire/Gloucestershire border, I was able to acquire a brace of young red-legged partridges.

The smokery specialises in smoking game birds and venison shot on the Little Barrington estate, smoked to order and delivered within 24 hours if necessary. It also offers a selection of assorted game birds - such as the partridges I took home - plucked and oven-ready.

Partridges are small birds with a very subtle flavour.

Because they are small, one bird is normally needed for each person.

Although most cookery books recommend they are either roasted, pan-fried or grilled, I decided to pot-roast mine in port - they were delicious.

To serve two people, you will need: Two young partridges 4oz (125g) mushrooms - chopped fine Two apples One small onion - chopped fine Zest from half a lemon One clove garlic - chopped fine Half tspn vegetable bouillon Small bunch fresh herbs - chopped fine (to include marjoram and thyme) One wine glass of port and one of water Oil to fry Flour to dust partridges Salt and freshly-ground black peppercorns to season Method: Turn the oven to 180C/350F or gas mark 4 Prepare vegetables and cut one apple into thin slices, the other into small dice Wash partridges under cold running water, dry with kitchen paper Dust partridges with flour and place in a frying pan in which a little oil has been heated Brown on all sides, then remove the birds from pan and place in casserole dish In the oil that remains, cook the onion, mushrooms, garlic and apple cubes until soft, add the port and water, vegetable bouillon, herbs and lemon zest, stir well and pour over the partridges Cook for about half-an-hour or until almost done Remove partridges from pot; pour all contents of the pan into the blender until you have a thin sauce, taste, adjust seasoning and return to the casserole dish Return partridges to the casserole dish with the sauce, place apple slices, which have been brushed with oil, over each bird, and allow to cook for another ten minutes.

NOTE: By allowing the finished dish to be stored chilled overnight, the flavours are enhanced further.