Monthly Recipe/Grouse with corn purée and roast figs

I prefer grouse early in the season when their flavour is sweeter and milder
than a little later in the year. The accompanying sweet, young corn
and plump, roasted figs work beautifully with these young grouse.
Later in the year, when their flavour is more intense, I pair the birds with
more robust flavours, such as porcini, barolo and smoky meats.


Serves 4

4 grouse, plucked and cleaned
4 garlic cloves, peeled
8 large thyme sprigs
50g unsalted butter
250ml sweet red wine, such
as valpolicella
Sea salt and freshly ground
black pepper
For the corn purée
2 corn cobs, outer husks
250ml milk
1 red chilli, deseeded and
roughly chopped
2 tsp golden caster sugar
30g unsalted butter
2 tbsp crème fraîche
For the figs
8 ripe figs
4 thyme sprigs
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp vincotto
20g unsalted butter


First, make the corn purée. Stand the corn upright, pointed
end down, on a board and strip the kernels from the cobs
by running a sharp knife from top to bottom. Put the kernels
in a saucepan with the milk, chilli, sugar and a good pinch
of salt. Top up with enough water to just cover the corn.

Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then lower the heat
and simmer until the corn is tender, about 15 minutes. Drain,
saving 2 tbsp of the cooking liquid.

Purée the corn with the reserved liquor in a blender until
smooth, then strain through a fine-meshed sieve and return
to a clean pan. Add the butter and crème fraîche and warm
over a low heat until the butter is absorbed. Taste and adjust
the seasoning, adding more salt and a little pepper; the purée
should be well seasoned.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Slice or tear the figs in half
and place them in a roasting tin. Scatter over the thyme,
season with a little salt and pepper and drizzle over the oil
and vincotto. Cook on the middle shelf of the oven until the
figs are just soft and have begun to ooze a little of their juice.
Remove from the oven and add a knob of butter. Stir gently,
allowing the butter to melt into the cooking juices. Set aside.

Turn the oven up to 200°C/Gas 6. Season the grouse inside
and out with salt and pepper and add a garlic clove and
2 sprigs of thyme to each cavity. Place a frying pan over a
medium heat and add the butter. When it is hot, colour the
grouse, two at a time, until well browned all over. Transfer
to a roasting tin.

Add the wine to the pan, turn up the heat, stir to deglaze
and let the liquor bubble to reduce by half. Pour this liquor
over the grouse and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove
from the oven and leave the birds to rest in a warm place
while you reheat the figs and warm the corn purée gently
over a low heat.

To serve, spoon the corn purée onto warm plates. Lay the
grouse alongside and finish with the figs and their juices.