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RECIPES: Nick Nairn shows us some new ways with an old favourite – grouse

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Game season is here – and I’m thrilled.

I’ve been cooking grouse a lot lately, and really enjoying it. The trick is to make sure you’re eating this year’s meat, which is a little lighter in flavour and full of succulence.

You’ll probably have to order grouse from the butcher. Go for this year’s birds, rather than last year’s which will have a much stronger gamier taste.

Don’t be afraid of cooking grouse though – it’s a great little bird. If you think of it a little like a small chicken, then removing the breasts from the carcass will be less daunting.

I take the skin off too, and wrap the skinned breasts in lovely pancetta. The butcher will separate the bird for you if you prefer, but do it yourself and you can keep the rest for stock to make my grouse soup.

One of today’s recipes is for grouse soup – this is a less cheffy version of a consommé I’ve cooked recently. It’s quicker and simpler to make and is still packed full of flavour.

The second recipe for roast grouse wrapped in pancetta is a classic dish and always tasty. Give it a go.

Grouse Soup

SERVES 2

The ingredients

FOR THE STOCK

  • Grouse carcase (meat mostly removed)
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 stick celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 stalks of thyme
  • 1.25 litres water

FOR THE SOUP

  • 1 grouse breast, cooked and sliced
  • 15g butter
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and diced
  • Quarter celeriac bulb, peeled and diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • A few cavolo nero leaves
  • 1tbsp parsley, chopped

The method

  • For the stock, wash the grouse carcass and place in a large saucepan with some roughly chopped carrot, celery, thyme, onion and seasoning.
  • Bring just to the simmer and turn down until it’s just visibly bubbling, but barely.
  • If any fatty scum rises to the surface, gently skim off during the cooking process.
  • It mustn’t boil or the stock will become greasy. Cook for about two hours until the flavour has stopped improving. Drain and discard the veg and bones, and set the liquid aside for your soup.
  • To make the soup, heat a little butter in a saucepan, and add the diced veg and chopped cavolo nero. Season and cook gently until just tender. Have the stock warmed in a pan, ready to use.
  • The way I serve the soup is to heat the bowls. Add the veg, then ladle over the stock, then sprinkle with parsley and add the meat. Serve immediately with crusty bread.

Roast Grouse wrapped in Pancetta

SERVES 2

The ingredients

FOR THE GROUSE

  • 4 grouse breasts, skinned
  • 8 slices of pancetta
  • 20g butter
  • Olive oil

FOR THE VEG

  • 2 Red Rooster potatoes, or similar, peeled and diced
  • A few leaves of cavolo nero
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1tbsp parsley, chopped

FOR THE RED CABBAGE

  • 10g butter
  • 100g cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1tsp redcurrant jelly
  • 2tsp red wine vinegar
  • Zest from quarter of an orange
  • 30ml port
  • Sea salt, pepper
  • 1tsp raisins

FOR THE GRAVY

  • 30ml red wine
  • 30ml port
  • 30ml chicken stock

The method

  • Take your skinned grouse breasts and wrap each in two slices of pancetta.
  • Warm a pan and add the olive oil. When hot, add the wrapped meat and leave to cook for about three minutes.
  • When starting to brown, add a knob of butter and turn to cook the other side for three minutes.
  • When cooked the internal temperature should reach 38°C (if you have a handy digital thermometer). Once cooked, remove to a warm place to rest for five minutes.
  • Now make the gravy. Add 30ml of red wine and the same amount of port to the pan and deglaze, scraping up the bits stuck to the base of the pan.
  • Add a little stock and reduce, simmering for a few minutes until it’s a dark gravy consistency.
  • For the veg, blanch the diced potatoes in well-salted water for a minute, then drain, pat dry and fry in hot olive oil until softened and golden, adding in the chopped parsley right at the end.
  • Season to serve. Blanch the cavolo nero leaves, then finish in a pan with a little butter, salt and pepper, until just softened. Cook these while the meat is cooking and resting.
  • The red cabbage can be made in advance and reheated. It also freezes well.
  • Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the cabbage and stir. Add the redcurrant jelly and stir until melted.
  • Add the vinegar, orange zest and juice, the port and season. Bring to the boil then cover and simmer gently for about an hour.
  • Stir in the raisins and bring back to a simmer for a further 30 minutes. Check the cabbage is tender and serve – or just keep it on a low heat until you’re ready to serve.

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