Cooking fresh game is one of the most rewarding aspects of shooting and the Glorious 12th marks the beginning of the grouse season which ends on December 10th. Â By the 13th August, grouse will be available in game dealers and selected butchers. Â Although you can buy them ready prepared with a little effort, a sharp knife and nice glass of red wine, you can easily prepare them yourself or even get the family to help!Â Even the youngest of children can be fascinated by preparing game for dinner and it is a very satisfying end to a glorious day.
The first stage is to gently remove all the feathers, starting at the tail and working towards the neck and head.Â Remove as many feathers as you can from the neck but leave the main wing pinions untouched. Â Plucking can take as little as 5 minutes, but if this is your first time then just take it slowly. If you tear the skin do not worry, as this will not affect the final flavour of the cooked meat.
Then using a heavy knife cut through the wing joints and discard the wings. You can use a blow torch to remove any remaining feathers, but I would normally use tweezers and pull them out. Using the same knife, break the bone between the claw and the end of the â€˜drumstickâ€™.Â Holding the scaly end of the leg, twist and pull to extract the tendons. You may wish to nip off the claws before doing this as they are remarkably sharp.
Next cut off the grouse’s head, leaving the whole of the neck attached to the body. Lay the grouse breast down on the work surface. Slit the neck skin from the carcass to the point where it joins the head.
For the next bit you may wish to wear some disposable gloves as we now have to dress the grouse. Begin by folding back the skin at the neck to expose the gullet and crop. Discard these. Â Leaving the skin over the neck attached to the carcass, cut off the neck. Cut around the V-shaped wishbone and pull it out, exactly as you would a chicken’s.
We now have to re move the innards from the carcass so we have to turn the bird on to its back again and slit through the skin between the vent and the tip of the keel-bone. You then insert Â two fingers inside the carcass and extract the innards. Take special care not to leave organs inside, which could make the grouse taste bitter. If the innards rupture during this process, simply wash the carcase with fresh cold water.
You may want a little sip of wine at this point otherwise simply carry on.
You do not need to truss (tie) your grouse but the final presentation will look better if you do. Trussing allows the legs of the bird to be held close to its body. Before trussing, season the inside of the grouse with salt and black pepper and cover the breast with thinly sliced streaky bacon. Grouse have very little natural fat.
Grouse has a very delicate flavour and are best cooked simply in a hot oven (250C) for between 12-15 minutes. Â Prior to roasting allow the grouse to be at room temperature and sear it on all sides in a heavy-duty pan which contains 20ml of heated oil, some mirepoix and thyme.Â You can pour a dash of good brandy inside the carcass before putting the grouse back in a pan and then into a heated oven. Once cooked, the grouse need to rest for about 5 minutes to allow the meat to settle and all the juices to stay with the meat.Â Any juices left in the roasting pan can then be used to make gravy by adding some chicken stock and thicken. Â ServeÂ with fresh cooked beans and game chips. Early in the season they are equally delicious with new potatoes. Once served simply enjoy.