Red Grouse

Downton Dish: Casseroled Grouse with Marmalade

Like just about every member of the upper class, the Downtonians are heading north to start shooting some grouse. The 12 August–The Glorious Twelfth–was and still is the official start of grouse-hunting season, when eager sportsmen (and women) hit the heather moors of Scotland and the north of England to hunt this delicious bird which, as it flies low to the ground at up to 80 mph, also offers sportsmen a significant challenge. Red grouse is the type most commonly hunted in Britain (of the four species of grouse to be found here, one is protected, one so rare that most sportsmen avoid shooting them, and one lives in areas so inhospitable hardly anyone seeks them out), and its meat is flavoured by its diet of heather, blueberry, cranberry, and bog myrtle. All the grouse you find for sale is wild: attempts to rear it in captivity have all failed.

Wealthy people like the Sinderbys and the Crawleys would often rent shooting estates in the north from hard-up aristocrats, or buy one of their own and host lavish shooting parties that saw astonishing numbers of birds killed over just a few days. King Edward VII was a keen sportsman and made the rounds of the great shooting estates along with his son, George, who was known for his rather distinctive shooting style: one arm straight along the barrel, turning to shoot birds behind him with a quick, jumpy step. Shooting weekends were highly formal: after the morning drive the guns would meet up with the ladies somewhere on the estate for a multi-course lunch. After that, the ladies would sometimes join the drive, typically as observers, before returning to the house to change into gowns for tea. At the end of the day came dinner–tails and tiaras were de rigeur, and there was usually a ball the first evening. On other evenings, non-shooting guests would stage amateur theatrical performances rehearsed while the men were out on the morning drives.

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Image: Clemens v. Vogelsang via Flickr Creative Commons

Downton Dish: Scouse

Because her sexual encounters always end so happily, Mary has decided to embark on a weekend-long bonkfest (sorry, ‘sketching trip’) with Gil. And apparently she let him make all the plans, because he chose the romantic city of…Liverpool. Oh, Gil. You sweet idiot. Well, while they’re there, they might as well enjoy a hearty bowl of scouse, Liverpool’s well-loved local dish. Scouse, originally called Labskause, was brought to the city by Northern European sailors. The dish was mostly eaten by Liverpudlian sailors and their families, so gradually the sailors themselves came to be known as ‘scousers’ and over time the term came to refer to anyone from Liverpool. Typically, scouse consists of meat (beef, lamb, or a combination of the two), vegetables, and potatoes, though a vegetarian version, known as blind scouse, is also fairly common. Whichever way you make it, it’s a hearty, filling dish, perfect for cold winter nights or multiple days of erotic gymnastics. Girl’s gotta keep her strength up, you know.

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Wild Garlic and Goat Cheese Muffins

A few weeks ago, our favourite veggie stall at the farmer’s market started selling wild garlic leaves in bags. I’d never tried wild garlic before, but we gave it a go out of curiosity and immediately started kicking ourselves for not seeking it out earlier. It’s fantastic, and versatile, great straight-up sauteed, like any other green, or torn up into a salad or stirred into … Continue reading Wild Garlic and Goat Cheese Muffins

Places to Eat: The Pantry

If there’s one thing Stockbridge doesn’t lack, it’s cute places to have a cup of coffee and a bite to eat. There are so many of them around here I haven’t even had a chance to try them all yet, and I’ve been here the better part of a year. So if you’re going to open up a new one, you’d better have something great … Continue reading Places to Eat: The Pantry

Places to Eat: Angels with Bagpipes

Once upon a time, it was enough for a restaurant to just churn out good food. But then the foodie culture invaded, everyone became a critic on their blogs, and the ante was upped. To be considered a really good restaurant, it wasn’t enough to simply get your duck breast perfectly medium rare or your braises fork-tender. Now, your plates needed to look like they … Continue reading Places to Eat: Angels with Bagpipes

Mediterranean Squirrel Stew

Eastern gray squirrels are obnoxious little bastards. It’s bad enough that they go after all your birdseed and lawn seed and whatever else they can get their greedy little paws on, but while they’re helping themselves to all the food, they’re actually killing off a lot of native squirrel populations, like the British red squirrel. They’re like locusts, and they don’t even belong in this … Continue reading Mediterranean Squirrel Stew