Table Bird

Dark meat on the outside, white in the middle.

Dark meat on the outside, white in the middle.

Just as a follow-up on the previous post, the greyhen was absolutely delicious. It was obvious even when gutting her that she was going to taste very much like a red grouse, but the reality was a milder and rather more varied flavour. She was only a young bird so the meat was extremely tender and juicy, and having been cooked very simply with bacon and a couple of juniper berries, the flavour really shone through. No wonder these toothsome birds are so beloved by a range of flying and four-footed predators.

I knew that black grouse have two different kinds of breast meat, but seeing it “in the flesh” [ahem] was fascinating. The dark meat ran halfway into the breast, then suddenly ended above a small layer of white meat right in against the bone like a battenburg cake. This white meat was extremely flavoursome – something like a cross between grouse and wild partridge. Looking back through the long-lost shreds of GCSE biology which still lurk around my brain, I’m sure this variety in the meat can be linked to slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibres, and I must look into this properly when I get a moment. On the plate it was almost as big as a hen pheasant, and serving etiquette placed it in the grey area between allowing for “one each” and “one between two”.

Getting hold of black grouse meat carries with it a singly emotive undercurrent. If you’ve got a dead black grouse, then it follows that a black grouse has died, and that is seldom a good thing. But having tried one from the heathery hills of Aberdeenshire, I would be very interested to compare the flavour of this bird with one from Dumfries and Galloway, where heather is very much the exception and the birds spend most of their lives in a blend of myrtle, rushes and willows. It would be interesting to compare the two to see if the flavour varies, but it may be some considerable time before I can source a spare bird from this part of the world.

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