Roast Woodcock on Toast

The arrival of woodcock in late autumn is not heralded with the pantomime which greets the first grouse on the 12th of August. Nonetheless it is an aristocrat amongst game birds. Its dark rich flesh is better if hung for a week, and there is the bonus of delicious offal.

Don’t let the unappetising sight of woodcock devotees consuming the brains dissuade you from doing likewise. They are a delicacy.

Snipe are treated in much the same way except that they are small enough to grill, like chops. A gravy made from pan juice is the only sauce you need.

Ingredients

  • 4 woodcock
  • 8 oz (225 g) unsalted butter
  • 4 slices white bread
  • ½ lemon
  • 1 teaspoon cognac
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Spread the butter generously over the woodcock breasts.
  2. Roast the birds for 20 minutes at 400°F (200°C) Gas 6. Toast the bread.
  3. You will need to remove the innards at this stage, I’m afraid. Spoon them into a saucepan and mash them with a fork. They will be barely cooked so heat them through with a few drops of lemon juice, the cognac, and salt and pepper. Spread this paste on the toast.
  4. Carve the birds into breasts and legs. Take the tip of a sharp knife and split the heads. Assemble the woodcock on the toast, legs followed by breasts and the two halves of the head on top.
  5. Serve with braised lentils and winter salads.
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