Our resident chef Mark Hix on how the Glorious Twelfth heralds a hunting season full of delicious grouse

 
Mark Hix

This Friday marks the Glorious Twelfth, the day on which the grouse-hunting season officially begins. I’m hoping to squeeze in a little shoot in Dumfriesshire, and perhaps do some salmon fishing on the River Nith while I’m at it.

The game season is one of the most important events in the British culinary calendar – and it’s one we should rightly be proud of – but all too often I hear people say they don’t enjoy the taste of game.

Without fail it’s poor preparation rather than the bird that’s to blame. I’ve seen grouse cremated, cooked for twice as long as it should be. And who could blame somebody for not liking dry partridge or wild duck?

A small bird needs no more than 12-15 minutes in a hot oven, which will keep it nice and pink while allowing you to really taste the meat’s range of flavours. Surprisingly, some of the worst overcookers are those who do the actual shooting.

Grouse is expensive when the season kicks off, but don’t forget that these are wild birds, and so their abundance depends on a bunch of variables. Primarily it’s based on how many birds there are to actually shoot, but it also depends on the quality of the heather on which they feed. Without decent heather they’ll feed elsewhere, which may not be where anybody is shooting.

So next week you can expect prices to be high, but you can stretch your grouse out by serving it as a starter, maybe on toast or in a salad. In fact, there are many ways to enjoy this rare and prized little game bird.


ROAST GROUSE (serves 4)

Grouse is traditionally served with bread sauce, browned breadcrumbs and a good, simple gravy, with game chips made of potato and cut on a mandolin slicer. I quite like serving them with parsnip chips, which I simply cut lengthways on a mandolin with the skin on before deep frying.

Other great accompaniments are either Rowan or redcurrant jelly, or any homemade hedgerow jelly.

INGREDIENTS

• Four young oven ready grouse

• A couple of good knobs of butter, softened

• A few sprigs of sage

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

PREPARATION

• Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas mark 8.

• Season the birds with salt and pepper inside and out and distribute the sage into the cavity of the birds.

• Rub the grouse with the butter, place in a roasting tray and roast for 15 minutes, keeping them nice and pink.

• To serve, halve the grouse or leave whole for your guests to carve themselves.

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