Christmas seems a distant memory and January is almost over, its been an absolutely manic month and minimal time has been spent in the kitchen. I’ve been toying with the idea of trying some new proteins, and some I have not had for many years. A trip to Casey Fields Farm Shop just before christmas provided the opportunity to invest in some Organic Game Birds such as Partridge, Grouse, Pheasant and Pigeon which quickly found their way into the shopping basket!
I wanted to introduce some different flavours into the dish, not going down a traditional route tends to mean I will use Middle Eastern or Far Eastern influences for a more vibrant and mouth tingling experience.
Beware – Pictures of Spatchcocked Grouse Lay Ahead
Ploughing through various ‘traditional’ cookery books, birds like Grouse appear to be served with either a fruit based sauce, or a reduced game & veal stock, and game ‘chips’ or ‘Pomme Gaufrettes’ as they are known in France, Potato that has been cut by a waffle blade on a mandolin which creates a criss-cross pattern.
For this recipe, Middle Eastern Grouse with Royal Freekeh you will need the following ingredients for 1 person.
- 1 Grouse (Check whether the Heart and Liver are still in the cavity, mine were!)
- 1 small Onion
- 1/2 Preserved Lemon (readily available, I made my own a year ago, it’s easy to do)
- 2 Cloves Garlic
- 75 g Freekeh
- 50 g Butter
- 1-2 Tsp Harissa
- 1/4 Tsp Aleppo Pepper
- 1/2 Tsp Anardana (Ground Pomegranate Seeds)
- 1/2 Tsp Za’atar
- 1/4 Tsp Cinnamon
- A few strands Afhgan Saffron (Steenberg’s stock this, its amazing!)
- 1 Tsp ground Coriander
- 1/2 Tsp ground Cumin
- 1/2 Tsp Allspice
- A handful of Pistachio’s
- A handful of Pine Nuts
- 3 -4 Green Cardamom Pods
- a ‘Slurp’ of Pomegranate Molasses
- A handful of Almonds
- A handful of Barberries
- Bunch Fresh Coriander
- 500 ml Chicken or Vegetable Stock
If you don’t fancy spatchcocking your Grouse, your butcher will do it for you, I have shown how to do it on a previous post with a Chicken, you are just removing the backbone and pushing down on the breasts to flatten.
The Grouse is marinaded by the Butter, Harissa, 1 Clove Garlic grated (I used a fine Microban) and 1/4 of the Preserved Lemon, very thinly sliced. Its needs at least a hour, and could be done a day in advance and left overnight in the fridge.
Grouse is one of the Game Birds I had not eaten before, so this was going to be a interesting experiment to see if I could get everything to work in harmony, apparently Grouse is quite a ‘gamey’ meat with strong flavour so whatever I served with it needed to be ‘gutsy’.
The ‘Royal’ in the dish is my slant on ‘bejewelling’ Rice, but in my case the lesser know Freekeh. Freekeh, Frikeh or Farik is made from Green Wheat, its great at absorbing flavours, has a really good texture, slightly chewy and its good for you! The Jewel components are Pine Nuts, Pistachio Nuts and Almonds which have all been toasted, along with a good handful of Barberries.
Freekeh is available online from a number of suppliers including ‘The Sous Chef’, ‘Ottolenghi’s’, BUT BE CAREFUL and check the cooking instructions on the packet. Whole Freekeh takes a lot longer to cook than crushed or cracked Freekeh!
Anyhow, its still tasted really good so you need to finely chop the onion and fry in Olive Oil and Butter for a good 20 minutes, you are looking for the colour above. Don’t be tempted to rush this stage, the smell and flavour even at this stage is lip smacking.
Next, add the Anardana, Za’atar, Coriander and Cumin Powder, Aleppo Pepper, Allspice, Saffron, Cardamom Pods (lightly crushed), Cinnamon a continue to cook out the spices, then add the Freekeh and coat the grains thoroughly. Add the Chicken or Vegetable stock according to the instructions on the packet.
If you are using whole Freekeh it needs about 45 minutes to cook, timing the cooking of the Grouse is really important because you DO NOT want to overcook it, it WILL be tough and nowhere near as good if cooked for the correct time and left to rest.
Searching a number of books and Internet resources i went for the following method.
Set you oven on 200 degrees and allow to heat up, then, get a frying pan hot add a small amount of Olive Oil and Butter, and place the Grouse Breast(buttered) side down into the Pan and Leave for 5 minutes.
After 5 Minutes, put the bird in the oven for 10 minutes, then remove, and leave to rest for 5 minutes covered with foil and thats it! So you need to allow 20 Minutes for the Grouse to cook and ensure your Freekeh is good to go at the same time, something I managed to royally mess up ;-).
I sometimes think of Bejewelling as similar to tempering a Dhal! You have a base of Rice or Grains (or Lentils in the case of Dhal), and add some punchy fresh flavours at the last minute. So a minute or so before you are going to serve up, add the other 1/4 thinly sliced Preserved Lemon, the other Garlic Clove, Grated, and the toasted Nuts and Barberries, you are just warning them all through at the last minute. Finally stir in a handful of fresh coriander leaf, finely chopped and a good drizzle of Pomegranate Molasses.
Despite messing up the Freekeh timings, the dish was hearty, wholesome and delicious. There was a hint of fruit, but also some freshness from the Preserved Lemon and Pomegranate Molasses, I am really chuffed with my first attempt at Grouse, the Middle Eastern influence was something quite special.
Not sure in which direction my cooking is heading next, but as the new year settles down, I hope to get some more time in the kitchen soon.
Until next time……………L8ers……………….