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29 August 2012

Grouse earns fame for The Blackface Meat Company

Photo: © childsdesign

Eating game may no longer just be the privilege of the aristocracy, but as it is such a seasonal meat, it certainly feels like a privilege to enjoy it and with grouse, especially so. The grouse season is short, starting in August and finishing just 16 weeks later (read our article about The Glorious Twelfth).

Traditionally grouse is roasted whole.
Photo: © The Blackface Meat Company
One of our more recent additions to The Artisan Food Trail, The Blackface Meat Company based up in Dumfries, Scotland were kind enough to send us a brace of grouse to be given our full scrutiny. We enjoy game and this was a particularly special treat.

The birds arrived vacuum packed in a box with chill pouches and lots of shredded paper to keep them cool on their journey. Delivery was prompt and arrived next day after despatch.
The grouse are perfectly prepared to be oven ready and if you’re of a slightly squeamish nature or the uninitiated, we should warn you that the feet are left on – this is traditional.

Traditionally, grouse is roasted whole and served with game chips and bread sauce, which is very good, if a little too autumnal, so we chose to make ours more reflective of the current weather and took the summer flavours route in the form of a seasonal salad and pan frying the breasts.

Photo: © childsdesign

For the Pan Fried Grouse with Blackberries & Blackberry Dressing 
you will also need
small sprig of thyme
cider vinegar plus some water
caster sugar
lambs lettuce
salt and freshly ground black pepper

How to prepare the grouse
We removed the breasts from the grouse. To do this you first need to remove the legs by cutting through the joint close to the ribcage. Then take a very sharp small knife and cut parallel with the breast bone on one side first, making quick light cuts keeping as close to the bone as possible to release the meat – then repeat with the second side. The breasts will come away easily.

To make the dressing
This a very much an adhoc recipe, hence no specific quantities.
In a small saucepan add a splash of cider vinegar and some water, chuck in a handful of blackberries along with the thyme and simmer until the fruit is soft and breaking up.
Pour the juice and fruit into a jug through a sieve. Squash and rub all the juice and pulp from the berries through the sieve and mix the puree into the juice. Add some caster sugar to taste – this is where you’ll need to be a judge of the balance of sweet and sour. If it needs more sourness add a drop more vinegar.
Return the juice to the saucepan and simmer until the volume of the liquid has halved and become syrupy in consistency. Set aside to cool.

Note: We made our own fruit vinegar reduction, but if you'd prefer to use a ready-made fruit vinegar, there are plenty good quality ones available from our Artisan Food Trail producers.

To cook the grouse
In a frying pan, heat a little oil. When the pan is really hot place the grouse breasts skinned side down and cook for 2 minutes, turn them over and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the grouse breasts to rest for another 2 minutes before slicing.

Assemble the salad (for 2)
Put some lambs lettuce on to serving dishes, scatter with a few blackberries. Place the sliced grouse breast on top, season with salt and pepper and drizzle over the dressing.
If you want to make the salad more substantial the addition of sautéed potatoes will make it more hearty.

What did we think?
Grouse is termed as an organoleptic experience – is this a worthy description? We have to agree.
The meat is rich in flavour, which can be best described as a combination of duck, venison and pheasant and the texture is fine grained, succulent and meaty without being chewy.
Grouse does actually have a taste all of its own – an almost smoky flavour can be detected – it really is quite special.

We are pleased to award The Blackface Meat Company our ‘Artisan Food Trail Approved’ status for their Grouse.

To take advantage of the grouse season and to experience a gastronomic delight, we suggest you get you order in now!
You can find links to the Blackface Meat Company website on 
The Artisan Food Trail here.

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