Friday, January 13, 2012

#324 Grouse

I had heard this year was a good one for grouse, so as they were cheap I ordered a brace from Bentley’s, the local butcher in Pudsey, my home town. I had never cooked or eaten grouse before and was excited about adding yet another species to the list.
In Britain, game season begins on the ‘Glorious Twelfth’ of August, and it is the grouse that are shot from that day. Another bird joins them too – the tiny snipe. It is the grouse that is held the most highly among the game shooters however, for the game eaters consider it the best of all the game birds.
The grouse is not a single species; there are four in the British Isles. If you order grouse from your game butcher, then you will almost definitely be getting red grouse, the most common of the four.
The very beautiful red grouse

There are also the much rarer black grouse, ptarmigan and capercaillie. Of these, only the ptarmigan is still hunted, though in very small numbers, and there is a recipe for it in English Food, though I don’t expect to ever find one and cook it.
Male capercailles are rare, majestic and aggressive
and off the menu these days.

Grouse, like most game species, are very lean, which is great if you are wanting to cut down on your fat intake. The problem with this is that the meat can dry out very easily and so you need to protect the bird by encasing it in fat or bacon. You can also lard the bird with bacon fat or pork back fat. These measures are pretty easy to take, so cooking grouse is pretty straight-forward.
One grouse will serve one or two people.
Preheat the oven to 190C (375F). Take your grouse and give them a rinse under some water and pat them dry. Season inside and out with salt and pepper and stuff the bird with some seasonal fruit. This depends upon the month you are eating the grouse; Griggers suggests bananas, wild raspberries, cranberries and peeled and seeded grapes. I went with banana.


Cover the birds with vine leaves if you can get them. This is not necessary, so don’t worry if you can’t find any (I couldn’t). Next, cover the birds in jackets made of either bacon rashers or a sheet of pork back fat.


I went with bacon here as it could be served up alongside the grouse.


Roast for 35-45 minutes and allow to rest under some foil for around 20 minutes.


You can serve whatever you like with the grouse, but it is typically eaten with the typical game accompaniments like bread sauce, game chips and a tart jelly such as rowanberry. I went with some mashed potato and a couple of veg, myself.
#324 Grouse. This was an extremely gamey bird that was almost overpowering for me. I am not sure if it had been overhung like the mallards from a few years ago as I have no frame of reference. However, if the meat was eaten with something relatively bland like the mash, then it was good. I would like to try it again whenever I can to see if was a little too ripe, as it were. They did look very impressive with their little hairy feet sticking up, though it seemed to freak some people out. As soon as the feet were removed, the legs suddenly became drumsticks and could be dealt by squeamish minds more easily. A difficult one to score as I don’t think I saw this game bird’s full potential, but I must go with what I had on the day: 3.5/10

2 comments:

MimsyS said...

You say they were somewhat ripe. Was the taste gamey at all? Grouse don't often appear on the butcher block around here, despite me living in rural Norfolk, but they look similar, flesh-wise, to pheasant - is the taste much different?

Neil B said...

Hi mimsy. The taste was very different to pheasant as was the colour. Pheasent meat is much paler - like dark chicken meat. the grouse were very gamey - the leg meat in particular was so strong that i couldn't eat it. But I dad have the same experience the first time I had mallard; the second times, they were hung properly and were delicious.

From the experience, I wouldn't say pheasant and grouse were similar. Have you had much pheasant/game before? Pheasant is definitely a good place to start - no overly powerful. Pigeon is good too...