Of all the feathered game, grouse is considered the king – hence the first day of the grouse shooting season, 12 August, being named The Glorious Twelfth.
Grouse is native to Scotland but is found elsewhere in the UK. Its flesh is rich, with a distinctive red colour and a gamey flavour, and it’s quite small, meaning that one bird is enough for one person. Young birds are best roasted, while older birds work well cooked in a casserole.
Grouse is at its best from August until December.
Choose the best
As grouse are wild birds, rather than farmed, they should all be of pretty good quality, though the way in which they’re treated after shooting does have an impact. Look for birds that are plump, with unblemished, fresh-looking deep red skin – avoid any that seem dry, or smell ‘off’. The younger the bird, the better the flesh – a pliable breast bone, feet and legs and sharp claws all indicate that a grouse isn’t mature.
First, you need to remove the wishbone. Pull back the skin from the neck cavity to expose the entrance, cut round it with a small, sharp knife and snip the bone free at the bottom. Then cut the grouse’s wings and legs at the second joint – this makes for a neater-looking bird. Using kitchen paper, wipe the outside of the bird and inside the cavity. Season inside with salt and pepper, then push in some flavourings – try some sage leaves or sprigs of thyme or slices of lemon or apple. Tie the legs together with string and season the skin all over, brushing with soft butter or oil. You can also wrap the breast with pancetta or Parma ham to prevent it from drying out.
Keep the grouse in the fridge, on a tray, covered with foil or greaseproof paper for up to two days. Make sure it’s on the bottom shelf so that any juices don’t contaminate any other food; it’s particularly important to keep the grouse away from any other cooked meats in the fridge.
Try guinea fowl, chicken or quail.