Roasted Grouse with Faggots, Bread Sauce and Sloe Jam
Portion/Yield:Serves 2 as a main course
The official grouse season runs from 12th August until 10th December, and for me it symbolises the start of the game season. Grouse is an acquired taste; if you love the distinct taste of full-bodied game, then grouse is for you. Personally, I would choose not to eat it every day, but I appreciate its superiority and supremacy. Grouse is up there with the best of the best, so I would cook grouse for a special occasion in the same way that I would cook fillet of beef or turbot for a special meal, rather than for everyday eating.
Grouse is a lean bird and the meat can overcook very quickly, hence it is barded with bacon to protect the delicate lean breast meat. I have removed the legs and minced the leg meat with a bit of other game to make the farce for the faggots. The giblets and liver from the grouse are also chopped and added to the mixture.
This recipe is probably not for the faint-hearted and is best for the more experienced cook.
Ingredients & Method
For the sloe jam
- 100g frozen sloes (stones in)
- 200ml cold water
- 300g jam sugar (which contains pectin)
For the grouse and faggots
- 100g minced mixed game (such as grouse, venison, etc)
- 80g grouse mixed giblets and livers, chopped
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mixed herbs (such as thyme, rosemary and sage)
- 1 teaspoon grated onion
- ¼ teaspoon ground mace
- pig’s caul fat, for wrapping
- 6 slices of pancetta
- 2 oven-ready grouse
- 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the bread sauce
- 150ml milk
- 1 shallot, finely sliced
- 1 clove
- a couple of gratings of nutmeg
- 2 whole black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 1 star anise
- 80g fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
First prepare the sloe jam. Put the sloes and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, then simmer for about 10 minutes or until the sloes have collapsed and the mixture has become a purée. Remove from the heat and pass the purée through a sieve, discarding the stones, then return the purée to a clean pan and add the sugar. Dissolve over a low heat and then bring to a gentle simmer for about 6 minutes or until the jam is thickened and has a glossy shine, stirring occasionally to prevent the jam from catching. Once ready, pour into a warm sterilised jam jar, cover, seal and set aside to cool. This will make more jam than you need for this recipe, so once opened, keep the jam in the fridge and use within 1 month. Serve with other game such as pheasant, venison or partridge, or serve with cheese.
Prepare the faggots. Put the minced game, grouse giblets and livers, herbs, onion and mace into a mixing bowl, season with salt and black pepper and mix well. Evenly divide and shape the mixture into 4 walnut-size balls, wrap each ball in pig’s caul fat and then in cling film, and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Prepare the grouse. Place 3 slices of pancetta over each grouse, then truss each barded bird with butcher’s string.
To cook the grouse and faggots, preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Poach the cling film-wrapped faggots in a large pan of boiling water for 15 minutes, then remove from the water and leave to rest for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt 1 teaspoon of the butter in a hot pan, then add the pancetta-wrapped grouse and cook until browned all over. Place the browned grouse on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 5–6 minutes or until cooked and tender (the grouse should be medium-rare). Remove from the oven, cover with foil and leave to rest in a warm place for 8–10 minutes.
While the grouse is cooking and resting, make the bread sauce. Put the milk, shallot, clove, nutmeg, peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme and star anise in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for 10 minutes. Pass the infused milk through a sieve into a heatproof bowl (discard the contents of the sieve), then add the breadcrumbs and butter and stir until well combined. Season to taste with salt and black pepper, then cover, keep warm and set aside until you are ready to serve.
In the meantime, to finish the faggots, remove the cling film from each one. Melt the remaining 1 teaspoon butter in a small frying pan over a medium heat, then add the faggots and cook for about 3 minutes or until browned all over, turning them regularly. Drain on kitchen paper.
Serve the roasted grouse whole or remove the breasts from the bone. Serve the grouse with the faggots, warm bread sauce and sloe jam.