As these birds are shot in the wild, some quantity of lead shot in the meat is inevitable. Cut the shot out of the flesh before serving, as well as any feathers that may have been driven into the meat along with the shot. Take care to remove shot from bones, too, as any shot or heavily bloody areas will tarnish the flavour of bones used for stocks and sauces. Before cooking, it is wise to truss the birds so that they hold their shape and cook evenly - you can ask your butcher to do this for you.
Roasting grouse on the crown is the best way of protecting the delicate meat during the cooking process. Brown the skin in a pan before transferring to the oven for 10-12 minutes. Grouse is a lean bird, so needs to be cooked carefully to prevent it from drying out. It should be served pink, as this ensures that the moisture is retained in the flesh. If you have a whole grouse, don’t discard the heart and liver as these can be pan-fried and eaten, too, perhaps on a slice of good sourdough toast.
Being slightly tougher, older grouse benefit from slow cooking. Make sure you braise the bird, or pot-roast, ideally in a mix of stock and good quality red wine. Cook for around 45 minutes and always allow the bird to cool in the stock to help lock in moisture - you can keep the birds whole, or joint them.
As with pigeon, quail or duck, grouse legs can be removed and confited in fat, gleaning tender, melt-in-the-mouth results.
The traditional way to serve grouse is with a fruit jelly, game chips and a gravy or jus. Commonly associated with autumn and winter, grouse pairs perfectly with seasonal fruit and vegetables such as blackberries and beetroot. Adam Stokes favours beetroot with his grouse, while William Drabble chooses blackberries.
It has a strong gamey flavour which needs to be balanced by sweet and sour accompaniments – hence why it matches so well with blackberries – so be bold when choosing what to serve with this glorious bird.