Wicked game: Mark Hix prepares a supper for the grouse season

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The arrival of grouse in our kitchens is a perfect moment to try varied recipes for a great meal, says our chef

It's going to be another good year for grouse, according to my friends north of the border. The first game bird of the season should be celebrated in style, a mixture of simplicity and sophistication. The grouse has a unique flavour so my preference is not to hang it; why would you change the great flavour in the bird by trying to make it even stronger? Bacon on the breasts of the birds is my other pet hate, but you may already know that because I bang on about it every year.

A nice clean grouse supper is the way to go, as with the four-course meal I've put together here. Focus on the ingredients without much messing about and leave the dinner table with a memorable and clean palate, your diners satisfied after a delicious meal.

A plate of girolles, samphire and bacon

Serves 4

Our first girolles, or chanterelles as they are sometimes called, arrived in mid-July this year. They are always a welcome edition to the menu, bright yellow, trumpet shaped and meaty in texture. The slight saltiness of the samphire and the bacon works well with them as a simple combination for a starter.

60-70g chunky diced bacon or pancetta
2-3 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
200-250g girolles, cleaned but not washed
A handful of samphire (about 120-150g)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put a frying pan on a medium heat and cook the bacon with a couple of tablespoons of the oil for 2-4 minutes, turning as they are cooking until lightly coloured. Add the girolles and keep cooking on a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, still turning them as you go.

Once they are cooked, stir in the samphire and cook for another 30 seconds or so, then remove everything from the heat. Add more oil if necessary and season to taste. Serve immediately.

Steamed scallop with seashore vegetables

Serves 4

Try to buy medium-sized dived scallops for this dish. You should be able to get your fishmonger to clean them for you, then leave them attached to the half shell with the roe on.

As I've used samphire already, I suggest you use sea spinach or sea aster which can be now bought in decent supermarkets.

4 medium-sized scallops, shucked and left in the half shell
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A handful of seashore vegetables like sea beet, sea aster, sea purslane, etc, washed
2 tbsp rapeseed oil

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas mark 5. Place the scallops on a baking tray with about a cup's worth of water on the tray. Season the scallops and cover with foil. Place in the oven for about 8-10 minutes until just cooked.

Meanwhile, blanch the sea vegetables in boiling water for about 30 seconds then drain in a colander.

To serve, place the scallop shells on plates, arrange the sea vegetables on the scallops and spoon over a little rapeseed oil.

Roasted grouse with gravy and hedgerow jelly

Serves 4

Grouse tend to be a tad expensive at the beginning of the season so, if you like, half a bird would certainly suffice, especially if you were to serve it as part of this four-course supper, as I've suggested.

If you enjoy foraging from the hedgerows, you may well have an excess of berries. The heatwave has certainly accelerated our fruit and berry season, and they can be made into a lovely jelly. What's more, any that you don't eat straight away can be stored in a Kilner jar and will keep in the fridge or a larder. This kind of jelly is great to hang on to as it can be easily used as lovely accompaniment for game birds, pâté or cheese – especially blue cheese.

4 oven-ready young grouse
A few sprigs of sage
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A good knob of butter, softened
A splash of red wine
A cupful of strong chicken or game stock
A little cornflour (optional)

For the jelly

450g blackcurrants or blackberries or a mixture (frozen can be used)
450g caster sugar

To make the jelly, place the blackberries or blackcurrants and sugar together in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, and gently bring to the boil, stirring continuously. With a ladle, remove any scum that rises to the surface and discard. Allow to simmer for 1 hour, then pass through a fine-meshed sieve.Pour into a mould or Kilner jar and leave to set in a cool place.

Preheat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Season the grouse inside and out and rub the breasts with butter. Put a sprig of sage into the cavity of each bird and cook for 15-20 minutes for medium rare, basting every so often. Remove the grouse from the roasting pan and set aside in a warm place.

For the gravy, place the roasting pan over a moderate heat, add the wine and stock and deglaze the pan by stirring up the stuck-on sediment with a wooden spoon. Cook rapidly for a minute or so. For a thicker gravy, add some cornflour mixed with a little water and simmer for another minute.

Serve the grouse on or off the bone, with jelly and the gravy separately. The jelly can be spooned out on to the plate or you can turn the jelly out of the jar and slice it.

Loganberries with ricotta and honeycomb

Serves 4

This is a great natural and simple way to serve berries such as loganberries in a dessert. It would also work equally well with tayberries, strawberries or raspberries.

300g loganberries or tayberries
150-180g ricotta at room temperature
100-150g honeycomb

Arrange the loganberries on a plate, spoon the ricotta over with a teaspoon and then break the honeycomb on top. Finally, pour some liquid honey from the pot over everything and serve.

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