To celebrate his promotion in You Only Live Twice (1964) to the Diplomatic Section (and not getting the boot following his recent poor performance at work), James Bond decides to take his secretary Mary Goodnight out to dinner at Scott’s for their first roast grouse of the season, thus placing the start of the adventure in August.
Scott’s was, when the novel was written, located at Coventry Street in London, moving in 1967 to Mount Street, where it remains today. It was one of Ian Fleming’s favourite haunts and he would often have lunch there. Though Scott’s was known as a seafood restaurant, Fleming wasn’t averse to ordering scrambled eggs, and clearly the restaurant had other items on the menu, including grouse.
When roasting grouse, it is best to use young grouse; older birds are usually braised. Preparing the dish, the trimmings are perhaps more involved than the bird itself. Traditionally, roast grouse is served on a slice of fried bread and accompanied by watercress, bread sauce and toasted breadcrumbs. The instructions below draw on recipes published around the time of Fleming’s novel, but have a twist or two.
- 1 oven-ready grouse
- 3-4 rashers of streaky bacon
- Generous knob of soft butter
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tsp flour
For the bread sauce (serves 2)
- 300ml milk
- 2-3 baby onions (or 1 larger one), peeled and studded with cloves
- 50g breadcrumbs (approx. 1½ slices bread)
- 25g butter
Other ingredients (serves 2)
- 30g breadcrumbs (approx. 1 slice bread)
- 2 slices of brioche loaf
- Salad leaves, including watercress
Heat the oven to 220C (200 fan-assisted; 430F). Season the soft butter and brush the butter generously over the breast and legs of the grouse and inside the cavity. Cut the rashers of bacon in half width-wise and lay the halves over the top of the bird, covering the breast and legs. Put the grouse in a roasting tin and cook in the oven for 40-45 minutes. After 30 minutes, take the bird out of the oven and remove the bacon and set it aside. Sprinkle the flour over the top of the grouse and put it back in the oven for the remaining cooking time. When the grouse is cooked (checking that the juices run clear), leave it to rest for five minutes or so while you finish preparing the trimmings (don’t switch off the oven quite yet).
Start preparing the bread sauce as soon as you’ve put the grouse in the oven. Pour the milk in a saucepan and drop in the onions. Over a medium flame, heat the milk, removing it from the heat as it begins to bubble up. Allow the milk and onions to stand for half an hour. During the last 5-10 minutes that the grouse is cooking, take the onions out of the milk and put the milk back on the heat. Add the 50g of breadcrumbs and butter and stir until the sauce is bubbling away and become thick and smooth(ish).
While the bird is resting after cooking, butter the slices of brioche on both sides and place on a baking tray. Spread the remaining breadcrumbs on the tray at the same time. Place the tray in the oven and bake for about 5-8 minutes. (This method is a little healthier than frying and the result is just as good.)
To serve, place the baked brioche slice on a plate. Cut the grouse in half lengthwise, and lay the halves on the bread. Arrange the salad leaves and bacon around the grouse, and if desired, garnish the top of the bird with some of the leaves. Spoon the bread sauce and breadcrumbs into small individual-sized bowls or ramekins. If you want, you could dress the leaves with James Bond’s dressing.
The dish should also be served with ‘game chips’, which are fried potatoes. I like to parboil potato ’rounds’, half a centimetre thick, for 5-7 minutes, then drain them, coat them in vegetable oil, salt and pepper, arrange them on a baking tray and roast them in the oven for 30 minutes. If cooking the potatoes in this way, start preparing them as soon as the grouse is in the oven.