A glut of grouse is the perfect excuse to use a dry cure for a decadent gamebird version of an Italian classic, dreamed up by Tim Maddams. Serves two.

This recipe is ideal for using older grouse and it is rather decadent. It is a version of a classic beef dish from Italy — lightly cured and then air-dried — that is so delicious it has spread across the world.

Making it with a grouse breast or two 
is quicker than curing a larger lump of beef. It is delicious and a brilliant older grouse recipe. You can preserve it past its useful fresh stage without freezing it. So should you be lucky enough to find yourself in possession of a glut of grouse, you can wow your friends with this adaptation.

Curing and drying the grouse

The recipe takes a week to make, at the very least, so you need a run-up. First, the grouse must be cured, then dried and it is this second stage that is a little tricky. Deciding when it is ready to eat will be 
a bit of trial and error unless you have a perfect drying chamber. Most of us humble DIY meat driers will simply leave it uncovered in the fridge for the drying phase. It may take up to a fortnight after removing it from the cure.

The trick is to judge it so that the meat is dry on the outside, but not completely rock hard all the way though. Personal preference will play a part as well. I like mine quite fresh, so lightly dried on the outside and still quite soft within. As with any meat that you want to air-dry, quality 
is of paramount importance.

Use very clean, fresh grouse breasts. They are best selected from older birds 
that have a deeper flavour. In fact, this is a great older grouse recipe as many people find old grouse too strong in flavour to 
be cooked in most traditional ways.

Ingredients

For the dry cure 
(mix together

  • 50g fine sea salt
  • 50g demerara sugar
  • 2 fresh bay leaves, chopped
  • ½tsp fennel seeds
  • ½tsp crushed peppercorns

For the bresaola

  • 4 grouse breasts, 
about 200g
  • 3% by weight of dry cure 
(see method)
  • 25ml red wine
  • A little orange zest 
(only two passes of the grater over the orange — 
it is better to underdo 
this than overdo it)

1. Mix the wine and zest with the dry cure — for 200g of grouse you will need 6g of dry cure — then dress the breasts in this mixture. Avoid using grouse breasts that have been shot through and are bloody. These will not take the cure well and will taste iffy.
2. Store in the fridge in a small tub. After 24 hours in the cure, turn the breasts over. Allow to cure for a further 24 hours then remove from the cure mix. Rub off any excess cure with a clean tea towel.
3. Place the grouse breasts on a 
non-reactive rack of some sort. Put this in the fridge exposed to the air for up to 48 hours or until the meat appears dry on the outside and firm to the touch. Return them to a clean tub and place back in the fridge for a further two or three days. Check 
them and if they start to look a little moist, take the lid off the tub and turn them over once or twice until they 
look dry again.
4. That’s it. They are now ready to slice thinly and serve, either as they are or perhaps with a few orange segments, some toasted hazelnuts and a few bitter leaves, adorned with a dash of finest olive oil.