Saturday, 17 August 2013

Gamekeeper's Menu at the Parkers Arms

August the 12th is the Glorious Twelfth. It marks the first day on which grouse can be shot in the UK (unless the 12th is a Sunday, in which case the season starts on the Monday). The Glorious Twelfth is important in the game calendar as grouse are the first of the game birds to come into season, and so it marks the start of the shooting season for feathered game (partridge follow on 1st September and pheasant and woodcock on 1st October).

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:
The Gamekeeper's menu is a 5-course set menu made up of canapés, game and onion soup, a whole roast grouse with all the trimmings, dessert and petits fours.  All this costs just £30, which I wouldn't be at all surprised to pay elsewhere just for the grouse.

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
The first course was an onion soup. Not really a French onion soup, and not really an English onion soup, but, as it was made with a rich venison stock, definitely on-message for a Gamekeeper's Menu.  As it was a hot summery day, I was worried about a French onion soup being a bit heavy and a bit too cockle-warming.  It wasn't.
Local estate-shot venison and English onion soup with Dewlay Lancashire cheese toastie
I'm really not at all sure how what should be the heartiest of French bistro dishes could have been made such a light starter!

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
Custard tart at the Parkers Arms usually takes the form of the Portuguese pasteis de nata. Lovely softly set creamy custard.  On the side is a quenelle of crème Chantilly with an elderflower confit/marmalade.

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
The Wet Nelly is always jolly good, but I thought that these showed that it works better as a slice of tart, rather a small cube.

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.




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1 comment:

Rachel McGrath said...

Hell's teeth. I want to go. Now.