- 6 grouse, oven ready
- Butter and sunflower oil, for browning, roasting and frying
- 13 ceps, 12 halved lengthways and 1 for shaving
- 90ml (3f l oz) white balsamic vinegar
- 4 tbsp water
- 30g caster sugar
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 black peppercorns, crushed
- 5 juniper berries, crushed
- 12 blackberries
- 500g celeriac, peeled and chopped into thumbnail-sized pieces
- 200ml milk
- 200ml water
- 100g butter
- Sea salt flakes and pepper
- ¼ tsp finely ground juniper berries
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- For the jus
- 12 juniper berries
- 400ml chicken stock
- 20g butter, plus extra for frying
- 10g finely chopped walnuts
- 30g red buckler sorrel, oxalis leaves or wood sorrel
- 20g watercress
This a wonderful dish of roasted grouse that exemplifies the greatness of the bird. We begin with blackberries. The foods that animals eat tend to be good accompaniments to the meat of the animal. Grouse enjoy blackberries. So, it follows that the bird and the fruit will go well on the plate and the palate.
The blackberries are lightly pickled. Pour the white balsamic vinegar and measured water into a saucepan. Add the sugar, bay leaf, peppercorns and juniper berries. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and leave the liquor to cool for 5 minutes. Pour it over the blackberries in a small bowl and leave to infuse for 20 minutes. Remove the blackberries and set them aside.
The dish is also accompanied by celeriac purée. Simply cook the celeriac in milk and water, with a large knob of butter for about 20 minutes until tender. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid, then blend to a purée with a stick blender, correcting the consistency by adding the poaching liquor as necessary. Season to taste and keep warm.
Next, combine the ground juniper, nutmeg and cloves to make a spice mix. This will be brushed on to the grouse once it’s roasted.
To cook the grouse, preheat the oven to 180˚C (350°F), Gas Mark 4.
I tend to agree with Escoffier that the legs of game birds should not be served, as they can be tough and sinewy. Therefore, the legs are removed but not discarded because they’ll be used for the jus stock: brown with a touch of juniper in foaming butter in a pan, pour in the chicken stock and leave to bubble for a few minutes. Pass the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve and set aside.
The grouse will be roasted on the crown (as they have no legs). First, they are browned for a couple of minutes on the stove in a large ovenproof pan of hot sunflower oil and foaming butter (lots of butter because game birds are not full of fat). Then they go into the oven for 8 minutes.
When the grouse emerge from the oven they should rest for 10 minutes on a board, loosely covered with foil.
Grouse also have a penchant for mushrooms, so this dish calls for ceps, a majestic funghi. All of them – except for one – are sliced in half, scored lightly on the inner side, and then pan-fried in butter and a little oil until perfectly golden brown. The one remaining cep meets the sharp side of a mandolin; these cep shavings will be a garnish.
To finish the jus, spoon away the excess fat in the grouse roasting pan, then deglaze the pan by pouring in the prepared grouse leg stock and scraping the base of the pan with a spatula. Heat the butter in a small saucepan and when it is foaming and has a nutty aroma, pour it into the pan and stir well. This is now ready to serve.
The skin is removed from the grouse and the breasts carefully sliced from the carcasses. Each breast is brushed with the juniper, nutmeg and clove spice mix. Only use a little of this seasoning: I’d prefer none rather than too much.
Each seasoned breast is placed on to the sauce on the plate and joined by a spoonful of celeriac purée. The roasted cep halves are placed on top of the purée, along with a couple of razor-thin slices of raw cep. Garnish with a pair of the pickled blackberries, chopped walnuts, buckler sorrel and watercress.