This is a fantastic light dish to make during the grouse season. I've served this salad with a variety of game birds; it also works well with wood pigeon or any kind of duck. As per my philosophy when it comes to the legs of game birds, I've prepared them as a confit and mixed the flakey meat into the shredded salad. The rich saltiness of the leg meat adds flavour and texture to the salad, which is then finished with some crunchy pistachios and fresh vibrant mint leaves.
Grouse with Red Cabbage and Pistachio Salad Recipe
- 2 whole grouse, oven ready
- 4 rashers streaky bacon
- 2 tsp coarse rock salt
- ¼ red cabbage
- 2 medium carrots
- ½ sweetheart cabbage
- 1 tbsp pistachios, shelled
- 1 small bunch mint leaves
- extra virgin olive oil
- white wine vinegar
- sea salt and cracked black pepper
Remove the legs from the grouse and place them in a tray or container just big enough to fit them in a single layer. Sprinkle them with rock salt – the quantity is not vitally important but approximately a 1/2 teaspoon per leg is about right. Put them in the fridge for 6 - 8 hours. Don't leave them too long or they will become too salty.
Heat the oven to 110C. Wash the rock salt from the legs under running water, then drain in a colander. Melt the duck fat in a casserole dish or saucepan, then place the legs in, making sure they are completely submerged. Place over a medium heat on the stove until the legs are starting to sizzle in the hot fat, then put in the oven. Cook until the meat is just falling off the bone. It will take approximately 2 hours, but will vary according to the size and tenderness of the legs. Remove from the fat and allow to cook slightly before picking the meat from the bone, being careful to remove any small bones or sharp filaments. Place the flaked confit meat in a container or bowl and set aside for later.
Finely slice the red cabbage and sweetheart cabbage into thin strips and place in a mixing bowl. Peel the carrot, then cut into thin strips using a mandolin with a julienne attachment, or use a sharp knife to cut them manually (alternatively, you could a grater, although you won't get such a nice result). Place into the bowl with the cabbage, then season to taste with sea salt, black pepper, olive oil and vinegar. Give it a good mix, then leave to rest and allow the flavours to meld whilst you cook the grouse.
Heat the oven to 180C. Cover the grouse with bacon, making sure to cover the tender breast meat, then secure with butcher's string, being careful not to tie it to tight, as that would prevent the meat from cooking effectively. Place a wide, heavy-based pan over a high heat and allow to get hot. Add a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil. Season the inside cavity of the grouse with a little salt, then place them in the pan breast side down. Cook for about 5 minutes, turning periodically to ensure the birds are evenly caramelised all over, then sit them in the pan with the breasts facing upwards. Put in the oven for approximately 6 minutes, or until the meat is just soft to the touch when squeezed. Depending on the size of the birds, this may take more or less time. Set a timer for 3 minutes at a time and keep checking them. Once you're confident they are nicely cooked, place them on a resting rack in a warm place. Cover with kitchen foil to help keep them warm. Leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Finely shred the mint, leaving a few leaves aside for garnishing, and add to the salad bowl. Add the shredded confit leg meat too, and give it a good mix. Portion the salad onto plates. Untie the grouse, removing the bacon. Carve the breast meat and slice into strips, then place on top of the salad. Finish with a sprinkle of pistachios and the reserved mint leaves.