This month, I am not following my usual theme of a patron saint for food. The 12 August – the Glorious 12th – is the start of grouse shooting season, so I thought it would be fun to write about this very distinctive-tasting bird.
The famous hotels in London – the wonderful Forte-owned hotel Brown’s amongst them – all put roast grouse as a special on their menus on the 12th. There is a frantic rush for the chefs in these hotels to receive the grouse that have been couriered down from the moors and to get them plucked and prepared ready for dinner that evening.
I am always amused by the excitement and speculation as to whether this year has been a good one or not, and my husband tells me that around the bar in White’s, a very stuffy men’s club in London, the talk is “Do you have good news from the north? So and so’s moor has not got many…” etc.
So we now come to the actual eating of this bird. I have many memories of a whole roasted grouse, often complete with its feathered claws still on – God knows why this is deemed necessary – sliding around my plate or skidding across the table covered in gravy when I try to cut into it, all the while unconvincingly complimenting my host for such a treat a treat. So for us girls with smaller and more discerning appetites, my grouse breast recipe will please you all. And none of that tedious plucking is required either – fewer and fewer butchers now do it – as you just skin them instead.
So this is how you prepare the bird:
Place the grouse breast side up and with a sharp knife cut away the skin and feathers to reveal two breasts either side of the breast bone. Pull the skin away and cut both breasts off the bird as close as you can to the bone so that you don’t waste any meat. Then pull the skin down further and cut the thigh and leg away from the joint. You now should have four breasts and four thigh joints ready to use for my recipe. The carcass, once you have pulled all the skin and feathers off, can be used to make good stock or soup. Always add a roughly chopped onion (but with the skin still on as this gives any stock a lovely deep colour) to your stock pot.
Tessa’s grouse breasts
2 grouse filleted as described, giving 4 grouse breast fillets and 4 thighs
1 pack of smoked pancetta rashersBisto Best Chicken Gravy granules
½ jar of black olive tapenade (available from most supermarkets)8 large sage leaves
Place the grouse breasts on a board and cover each one liberally with 1 teaspoon of tapenade.
Put the sage leaves on top and then roll each breast in two pancetta rashers.
Start at one end with one rasher and join with the second one so that you have a sausage shape when finished. To start with you might find this a bit fiddly but you will get the hang of it quickly.
Place the rolled breasts in a baking tin and add the thighs. Sprinkle the thighs with Bisto Best Chicken Gravy granules which give them a wonderful colour and crispness. I always use it to make gravy, just add a bit of wine and water – it’s also gluten-free.
Cook the breasts for 12 minutes in a very hot oven, but take the thighs out after six minutes
I serve this with quince jelly, but if you don’t have any homemade, Tiptree do an excellent one.
This recipe is also a great way of cooking chicken breasts or duck breasts – it doesn’t just have to be used for grouse.
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