There had been reports that the 2013 season for grouse was going to be a good one and I had been following carefully the tweets of Stosie Madi, chef-patron of the Parkers Arms at Newton in Bowland as she prepared a menu highlighting local grouse, and then driving over to collect the birds from the gamekeeper of a prestigious local estate, and then finally preparing the birds, including some strangely beautiful photographs of the birds' stomach contents. No, really, just look:
Inside the gullet of a grouse pic 1 red currants a plenty how beautiful is that pic.twitter.com/jH9BoM9ork
— Stosie Madi (@parkersarms) August 13, 2013
My canapés were some lovely, light, puffy potato fritters with an amazingly good homemade mayonnaise with (I think) a light hint of garlic.
|Canapés: potato fritters|
|Local estate-shot venison and English onion soup with Dewlay Lancashire cheese toastie|
As good as everything else was, the highlight was always going to be the grouse. A whole roast grouse comes on a lazy susan, accompanied by (going clockwise in the picture below) some ever-so delicate game chips, a finger bowl (you are going to get stuck into the bird with your fingers...), a superb celeriac purée, a big bunch of peppery watercress, pickled blackberries and a blackberry-damson cheese, terrific gravy and a little croute topped with the bird's heart and liver (and a rasher of bacon that really didn't need to be there.
|Grouse and all the trimmings|
|Grouse liver & heart on crispy bacon and a croute. |
(Apologies for quality of photo: the camera was fooled by the white pots)
Some traditionalists might bemoan the absence of bread sauce, but really I didn't miss it. Maybe it could be useful with older birds as the season progresses? But this was only the 14th August, with young birds, not hung at all.
The grouse had been roasted with some butter under the skin, butter flavoured with heather and herbs foraged on the self same moors on which the grouse had lived. The grouse had (of course) been perfectly cooked, was tender and had a great flavour: there was none of the bitterness to the legs that is often found (and why the legs are often left uneaten, or slow cooked separately). It really was worth digging around the carcase to extract the last bits of delicious flesh.
After a little rest (and further hand washing, as there's only so much grouse juices you can remove in a smallish finger bowl), it was time for the custard tart made with local eggs from Slaidburn.
|Slaidburn egg custard tart|
Finally, there were some little petits fours, in this case a couple of small cubes of the Parkers Arms signature dessert, Wet Nelly (a sort of cross between treacle tart and mince pie, with a wider variety of fruit).
|Wet Nelly petits fours|
I remember thinking that if this was a Gamekeeper's Menu, there must be a lot of extremely well fed gamekeepers out there; and equally that there are probably a lot of gamekeepers who'd like to have eaten as well as I just had.