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.