Britain's famous glorious twelfth is already well underway.
This year it is expected that around 40,000 shooting visitors from around the world will raise their shotguns in support of an industry that generates a whopping £2billion a year and employs around 100,000 people.
Now many of you may have seen the Famous Grouse Whiskey adverts, where you see the docile red grouse plodding around, however the red grouse is in fact one of the fastest birds on Earth and manages 80mph after a few wing beats as they accelerate into the sky.
Of all the feathered game, grouse is considered to be king, and it is certainly a rich man’s pursuit; a brace of grouse costs £180 to shoot and a typical two-day shooting party for eight can cost the host up to an eye watering £50,000 (once the cost of paying the estate owners for shooting days, accommodation, ammunition, gun hire, transport and commission have been taken into account).
Around 700,000 red grouse were dispatched last year, worth around £61million.
With grouse shooting being the most prestigious form of driven bird shooting in the world, it is no surprise that the first grouse of the season are highly sought after.
As dawn rose on Wednesday, there were an assortment of convoys waiting to speed the first birds to restaurants tables, whether by helicopter, train or car. The annual race to serve the first birds see diners booking tables months in advance.
Upping the antics is the Jugged Hare’s Great Grouse Race, which promises “estate to plate in under 12 hours”, making it one of the first London restaurants to serve the bird on The Glorious Twelfth. www.thejuggedhare.com
Last year the gastropub managed it in just 10 hours. The first brace was bagged in the heather moors of County Durham at 9.30am, by 12.30pm the first 40 birds had been loaded into a Range Rover and driven to specialist butcher Yorkshire Game.
Just half an hour later, the prepared grouse were loaded back into the car where they continued their 290-mile journey to the City. The birds arrived at 6pm during the drinks reception and the first grouse of the season was served at 6.45pm.
This year, dinners can pay £85 to be part of the experience and enjoy a five course red grouse dinner that also features rabbit, wood pigeon, hare and venison.
Eat Wild in Cirencester, Gloucestershire is another restaurant offering red grouse fresh from the Yorkshire Moors that day (£60 per head). www.eat-wild.co.uk
From estate to plate: how to prepare and cook the PERFECT Grouse
· Grouse are available for around £15 for a pair (known as a brace) from all good butchers, although you may have to preorder, allow one bird per person.
· If you have bought your birds un-butchered, prepare them by removing the head and feathered feet.
· Then remove the wishbone by cutting round it with a small, sharp knife before snipping the bone free at the bottom.
· Season inside with salt and pepper and flavour with herbs such as sage or thyme and add lemon wedges or crushed garlic.
· Tie the legs together with string and season the skin, brushing with butter, before wrapping the breast with Parma ham to prevent it from drying out.
· Keep the grouse in a fridge covered with foil for up to two days.
· "Roast in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees Centigrade for 15 minutes,"
· "Carve away the legs which are bitter and best kept for sauce and roast for a further five minutes maximum."
· Allow the birds to rest for 10 minutes before carving the breasts.
· Serve with a rich sauce based on game or poultry with a port reduction.
· Mashing the grouse livers into the sauce enriches it further. Serve with sliced Savoy cabbage, roasted beetroot and mashed potato.