A Glorious Game Bird

With the Glorious 12th being one of the most important dates on the Scottish calendar (unless you’re a grouse), we thought it high time we chatted about Mother Nature’s extraordinary gift to our wee country – game.

GrouseFirst up, when it comes to getting quality game birds onto the table we should all be aware of the key role that gamekeepers play in the countryside around us.  The role they play in managing our land and its spoils far exceeds fattening up birds ready for the shoot and keeping poachers at bay.  As well as being key players when it comes to conserving our wildlife, they also maintain many areas of the land, ensuring the picturesque scenery can be enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.

However, over the years gamekeeper numbers have begun to dwindle with estate shoots becoming less and less.  For me, this is a real shame and I firmly believe it to be detrimental both socially and culturally to Scotland.  So how can we help?

Well, the simple answer is we could all decide to eat more game, both at home and in restaurants. There have been many initiatives over the past few years aimed at highlighting the benefits of Scottish game.  Lean, affordable and tasty come straight to my mind and in terms of accessibility, game pies, sausages and burgers now regularly grace our supermarket shelves and delis.

Understandably rich game birds such as grouse might not feature high on your weekly shopping list which makes them the perfect main-course choice when you’re out.  Most good restaurants will feature game throughout the season as well as offering staple dishes such as pigeon and rabbit all year round.  In fact, I see it as the responsibility of myself and my fellow Scottish chefs to introduce this wonderful local bounty to our customers.

You see, once you realise that game birds don’t need to be dry and chewy you’ll be more inclined to try them at home.  Rich and moreish, the first grouse of the season this week brought with it a meaty, gamey flavour that is far superior to the safe taste of some of its other feathered cousins!

Scottish cooking as a whole has become enlightened over the past 20 years, largely through the introduction of spices and an international approach to the flavours gracing our tables.  I am completely convinced though, that we can bring the same enthusiasm to the revival of our own Scottish game and in the process, bring benefit to countryside and economy. Go on, give it a go.  You won’t be disappointed.

4 x grouse birds
1 x glass white wine (dry preferably)
8 x streaky bacon rashers
300ml chicken stock (or game stock if you have it)
Knob of butter
Fresh Thyme
Salt and Pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 240 degrees centigrade/gas mark 9
  2. Smother the breasts with butter and season inside and out – wrap in bacon rashers
  3. Put into the searing hot oven for about 15 minutes – this is one you definitely want rare rather than bloody.
  4. Leave to rest while you make the gravy.
  5. Pour off excess fat from the oven tray and place over a high heat. Add the wine, stirring until the liquid is reduced by about half.
  6. Add the stock and fresh herbs and reduce again.
  7. Strain into a jug and serve with the grouse – best eaten with game chips and lashings of bread sauce.

Keep things moist by sealing the juices into that little brown bird; roast your grouse with a tasty, bacon stuffing and serve with a perfect bread sauce and plenty of seasonal veg. Beats a chicken dinner any night of the week!  Or, if you’re still feeling in the summer spirit, how about using the wonderful, apple-flavour of partridge in a fresh salad of hazelnuts and pears as an unusual and oh-so-sweet starter.

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