This month I would like to talk about what in my opinion is the pride of the game of the season. Grouse, firstly I’ll tell you a little about the glorious twelfth as its called then I will explain my favourite way to cook it and utilise its amazing intense gamey flavour, because its not for the plain eater to be honest and it even splits my kitchen 50/50 for those who do and don’t like it.
The glorious twelfth is on the 12th of August and is the start of the shooting season the red grouse and to a lesser extent the ptarmigan in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This is one of the busiest days in the shooting season, with large amounts of the game being shot. The date itself is traditional, not all the game has the same start to their open season, most begin on September 1st with October 1st being for woodcock and pheasant. Now I totally understand the dare for opening the grouse seasons but will never understand why it appears on the menu of numerous restaurants on the same day as I believe it needs 24 hrs minimum hanging after the bird/beast has been shot. That rant I will save for another day.
The other small downside to the traditional date is it creates such a demand for grouse so obviously, that means the price inflates dramatically based on the number of which are shot. In two years alone at the restaurant I have seen it start at £14 per bird meaning I would have to charge £40 for a main course of the bird which is a little steep. I could do a starter with half the bird but again what we wouldn’t need to charge wouldn’t be fair to the customer. The best price for the week of the grouse season starting is actually this year with long-legged costing £6 per bird and the oven ready costing £5 per bird, this means we can get it on the menu, however this year due to frighteningly cold winter and the summer being very hot the season has been greatly affected and the numbers are a lot lower than normal.
Now grouse. As I said is very strong, with a rich taste, course meat that owes its flavour to the heather and wild berries it feasts on in the wild. Try wrapping the breasts on the crown in bacon to keep them moist. Also, its delicious cooked in its own juices with wild rice and dark green leaves such as watercress or kale on the side. The bird also stands up to being braised, deboned the bird and cook it slowly in stock with celery, onions and tuck into some shortcrust pastry for a delicious game pie.
For a delicious little game starter-
Blend the grouse meat and innards cook as course pate’ and serve with a zingy redcurrant jelly and some melba toast.
Traditionally served with grouse is bread sauce, now it doesn’t have to be horrible old lumpy kind, try using sourdough to give a nice sour punch or add a good squeeze of honey to sweeten it up. Also, we substitute a little of the liquid and add some dark rye ale which gives it a delicious deep earthy flavour.