Grousing Around – Winter Fare and Organic Birds!!

WP_20150118_16_52_45_ProChristmas 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.

Nope, not for me and I decided to look at some different options with influences from Bethany Kehdy and Sabrina Ghayour, and the books Jewelled Kitchen and Persiana.

For this recipe, Middle Eastern Grouse with Royal Freekeh you will need the following ingredients for 1 person.

  1. 1 Grouse (Check whether the Heart and Liver are still in the cavity, mine were!)
  2. 1 small Onion
  3. 1/2 Preserved Lemon (readily available, I made my own a year ago, it’s easy to do)
  4. 2 Cloves Garlic
  5. 75 g Freekeh
  6. 50 g Butter
  7. 1-2 Tsp Harissa
  8. 1/4 Tsp Aleppo Pepper
  9. 1/2 Tsp Anardana (Ground Pomegranate Seeds)
  10. 1/2 Tsp Za’atar
  11. 1/4 Tsp Cinnamon
  12. A few strands Afhgan Saffron (Steenberg’s stock this, its amazing!)
  13. 1 Tsp ground Coriander
  14. 1/2 Tsp ground Cumin
  15. 1/2 Tsp Allspice
  16. A handful of Pistachio’s
  17. A handful of Pine Nuts
  18. 3 -4 Green Cardamom Pods
  19. a ‘Slurp’ of Pomegranate Molasses
  20. A handful of Almonds
  21. A handful of Barberries
  22. Bunch Fresh Coriander
  23. 500 ml Chicken or Vegetable Stock

WP_20150118_17_15_01_ProIf 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.

WP_20150118_17_34_19_ProGrouse 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’.

WP_20150118_18_26_16_ProThe ‘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!

WP_20150118_19_17_34_ProTiming for this dish is quite important, as I found out! I made the mistake of not checking the Freekeh I was using, and ended up with a Grouse that was ready 30 – 40 Min’s before the 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.

WP_20150118_19_21_20_ProNext, 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.

WP_20150118_19_22_05_ProIf 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.

WP_20150118_19_28_05_ProSet 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 ;-).

WP_20150118_19_52_22_ProI 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.

WP_20150118_20_33_34_ProDespite 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……………….




الفارسي الأرز جولد Persian Jewelled Rice (with an AMAZING Aubergine Veal & Yoghurt Crumble)

Continued inspiration from the Middle East this week, it amazing how many new flavours and techniques I am discovering as I work through the various cook books on my shelf.

This weeks organic veg box, courtesy of Riverford contained some ‘Graffiti Aubergines’, an amazing looking variety that was going to be the star performer in another Bethany Kehdy recipe that was going to accompany the Jewelled Rice.


There are quite a few ingredients in this particular feast, and some interesting cooking processes. Both recipes are contained in one of my fave new books The Jewelled Kitchen, don’t take my word for it, the food blogging world is awash with praise for Bethany’s new book and clicking on the title above, will take you one such blogger.

The Rice (Basmati), is washed several times until the water runs clear, this removes surface starch, and helps make the final dish light and fluffy. You then soak the rice in warm salty water for a maximum of 30 minutes, and wash again removing more starch. You then add to boiling water, bring back to boil and cook for 3 minutes over a HIGH heat, and DON’T STIR, it will break the grains up.  Then you gentle cool down using tepid water and thats the 1st stage complete !!!

The 1st stage of preparing the rice can be done a day in advance, and the rice can be put in the fridge, covered, until ready to finish.


The picture above is the rice at the 30 minutes resting stage, with the Graffiti Aubergines waiting patiently for their makeover!

Adwiya (Persian: ادویه‎), or Advieh is a mix of spice typically used in Persian cuisine, you can read more about it HERE. Mine was the number 2 variety in the back of the book and contained Pistachios, Edible Rose Petals, Saffron, Cardamon and Cinnamon. When ground and mixed, the smell and flavour is amazing. If you need a source of specialist ingredients I use Ottolenghi, Steenbergs, and have just subscribed to a new supplier ‘The Kitchen Nomad’, that provides a monthly service based on a particular country, which is well worth a look.

As well as the Advieh other ingredients include Barberries, (never used those before), flaked Almonds, Pistachios, Seville Orange rind (blanched 2-3 times), fresh Mint and Currants. The final cooking process involves steaming in water, with a cloth covered tight fitting lid to prevent the rice going soggy, before this is started, some oil is heated in the pan and a layer of rice is placed in the bottom of the pan and then sprinkled with some of the fruit, then Advieh, then another layer of rice, fruit, then Advieh etc. with the final layer plain rice.

Jewelled Rice

The cooking process produces a Tahdeeg, a crispy base which has to be tried, it’s delicious. If you click on the picture above it will enlarge, and you can just see the light brown Tahdeeg on my rice, which I placed on top after breaking up into smaller pieces.

If you like what you see go buy The Jewelled Kitchen, its a beautiful inspiring book, and the recipes are just stunning.

The Aubergine, Veal and Yoghurt Crumble accompanied the Jewelled Rice, and introduced some more new ingredients not used before.


You can see the vibrant Pomegranate Seeds, and flecks of fresh Mint, Barberries are also used along with Aleppo pepper and Pomegranate Molasses.  The dressing is a mix of Yoghurt, Tahini and Lemon Juice.  The two dishes looked resplendent on the Moroccan table in the lounge and tasted just absolutely stunning.  It did take some time to prepare both dishes but the results were well worth the effort, the ‘boss’ being very pleased with this weeks efforts.

I have just placed my advanced order for Rachel Khoo’s new book due for release in October, and also ordered a Vietnamese cookery book which I am looking forward to trying.

The final finished meal, Jewelled Rice with Aubergine, Veal and Yoghurt Crumble.    Enjoy…