There is no question of what best to do with your first brace of the season. Follow our traditional roast grouse recipe for the perfect start to a season of game suppers
Few things can beat our traditional roast grouse recipe. And especially with the first brace of the season. A young bird is best cooked the traditional way, so make this glorious game supper while you can. For those not heading out to the first restaurant to put grouse on the table – always a race between the best sort – here is how to cook your own at home.
For other ways to get your brace from shot to pot, try brining and dining. Brining is a simple process that allows the game to take on extra moisture – no danger of a dry, tough bird here. Try our brined roast grouse with warm chard and sheep’s cheese salad. Or for something inventive and guaranteed to impress, try our grouse ravioli with grouse broth.
TRADITIONAL ROAST GROUSE RECIPE
A young bird is best cooked in the traditional way. There is no danger it will be tough, like an older bird. As the season goes on and older birds present themselves you do need to think about changing your cooking technique.
But at the start of the season there is no need to fuss with a young bird. There’s no need to hang it, just roast it and serve with bread sauce and game chips – the elements that complete the traditional roast grouse recipe. There is very little that can compete with a properly roasted grouse for gastronomic delight.
This traditional roast grouse recipe pays unadulterated homage to the main ingredient. Grouse does have a strong smell but this game bird often tastes less strong than one anticipates. Grouse is wild, natural and a thoroughly healthy addition to the diet.
(best for young birds)
- 4 young grouse
- Salt and pepper
- 8 crushed juniper berries
- 8 sprigs thyme
- 8 rashers streaky bacon
- A little fat for roasting
- A couple of handfuls root vegetables
For the bread sauce
- 400ml (131⁄2fl oz) milk
- 1 white onion studded with 5 whole cloves
- 4 slices white bread, crushed
- A good pinch mixed ground spice
- Salt and pepper
For the game chips
- 1 large frying potato, such as Maris Piper
- Oil for deep frying
For the gravy
- 200ml (7fl oz) veal/game stock
- A good splash sloe gin
- 100ml (31⁄2fl oz) light red wine
- Local watercress
- Home-made or high-quality redcurrant jelly
HOW TO COOK TRADITIONAL ROAST GROUSE
To make the bread sauce, bring the milk to the boil with the onion in it. Let this infuse for about 20 minutes, then remove the onion and add the breadcrumbs, spice and seasoning.
The sauce needs to be of a loose, dropping consistency. Set aside and keep warm.
To cook the game chips, peel the potato and slice it very thinly (NB: this should be done before the grouse is roasted). Rinse it thoroughly in cold water two or three times to remove as much starch as possible (this makes the potato crisps crispier). Pat dry, and deep-fry for two to three minutes, until golden brown. Season with a little table salt and set aside.
To cook the grouse, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Season inside and out, put the juniper berries inside the cavities of the birds, tuck a sprig of thyme under each leg and lay two rashers of streaky bacon over the breast of each grouse.
Colour in a roasting tray with a little clarified butter or duck fat. When sealed on all sides, roast for between 16 and 20 minutes, depending on size. Remove from tray and keep warm. Add the root vegetables to the roasting tray. Tip any juices from the birds into the tray as well as any offal – this will add to the flavour – and scrape up any sediment that’s in the tray. Add the stock, sloe gin and red wine. Simmer gently for five to six minutes, pass through a fine sieve into a saucepan, and check the seasoning.
HOW TO PRESENT TRADITIONAL ROAST GROUSE
Carve the breasts and legs. Arrange the streaky bacon next to each bird on a warm dinner plate. Put a pile of game chips next to the bird with a sprig or two of watercress. Pour any excess juices into the sauce, then pour the sauce over the birds and serve with warmed bread sauce and a pot of redcurrant jelly.
NB: keep all the carcasses for making good game stock; you can always stockpile bones in the freezer and make a decent batch when you have a good quantity.