There is much snobbery surrounding young and old grouse. Mike Robinson shows there's nothing wrong with an older bird with these tasty and tender pot-cooked crowns of grouse

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Mike Robinson says that there’s no need to be snobby about old grouse, as proved by this pot-cooked crowns of grouse recipe. Older birds have a stronger flavour, can be more fibrous and are bigger than the youngsters. Cooked sympathetically, an old grouse can taste absolutely delicious.

With the season underway, it’s time to get creative with your bag in the kitchen. Whole roast grouse with grilled peach salad is delicious, certain to surprise and impress your guests.

POT-COOKED CROWNS OF GROUSE

Serves 2

  • 50g (2oz) butter
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 crowns old grouse
  • 50g (2oz) smoked bacon lardons
  • 4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 12 small wild mushrooms
  • 6 shallots
  • 1 tsp tomato ketchup
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 100ml (31⁄2fl oz) port
  • 500ml (171⁄2fl oz) dark beef stock
  • 4 baby carrots

The key to this recipe is in the pot cooking. Start with a heavy casserole dish or copper pan that is deep and big enough to fit the birds. Heat the butter until it foams. Season the grouse then sear until they’re golden; this will take about five minutes. Take the birds out and cook the bacon lardons, garlic, mushrooms and shallots gently until they are coloured. Next, add the tomato ketchup and thyme, then pour in the port and stock. Nestle the grouse in the liquor and bring it up to a simmer.

Set the oven to 80°C/176°F and put a lid on the pan. Put the grouse in the oven for 40 minutes or so, until they are pink but cooked in texture. Slow cooking like this at a low temperature prevents them drying out.

Remove from the oven. Take out the grouse and vegetables and keep warm while reducing the sauce. Add the vegetables back in and the baby carrots for five minutes. Serve with lots of claret and mashed potatoes.

HOW TO TELL YOUNG GROUSE FROM OLD

First, pick up a grouse by its beak between your thumb and the side of your forefinger. Squeeze. On a young bird the front of the skull will collapse easily. Second, spread out the wing. On an old bird the third flight feather will be rounded. On a young one, the feather will be pointed and, when pulled out, full of blood. (This is harder as they get older but a young bird’s feather will still be pointed.)