Monday, 7 October 2013

Roast Woodcock in Red Wine Sauce

Roast woodcock in red wine, rowan berry and apple sauce

Woodcock is I believe one of the most delicious of all the game birds and I say that as someone who has tasted a great many different types of wild game. The obvious problem, however, is that they are incredibly small and probably at least two are required per person to represent an even semi-decent main course portion. What this recipe offers, therefore, is a very enjoyable starter or appetizer suggestion.

There is a tradition when cooking woodcock that the head be left on the bird and the guts intact. The neck is twisted around and the beak used to pin the legs and wings in place as the bird is roasted. The guts dissolve during the period spent in the hot oven and form part of what becomes a rich, luscious sauce. While I have eaten and very much enjoyed woodcock prepared and cooked in this way, on this occasion I decided to remove the head and innards before it was roasted.

A whole, plucked woodcock

Ingredients per Person

1 plucked woodcock
2oz butter
1 small glass red wine (Shiraz was used in this recipe)
1 tablespoon rowan and apple jelly
Salt and pepper
Freshly chopped parsley to garnish

Feet are chopped from woodcock


It may be that you source your woodcock from a supplier who will undertake the cleaning process on your behalf. Be aware, however, that they usually come plucked and nothing else, for reasons already explained. This means that you should have some idea of how to clean these little birds (if desired) before they are cooked.

Head and neck are chopped off woodcock

I began by chopping the feet off at the knees. Essentially, cut at the joint where you can see the meat begins/ends. You should then cut off the head and neck, right at the point at which it joins the main body.

Guts are removed from woodcock

Again because woodcock are so small, it's not easy to clean out the body cavity without damaging the structure of the bird. The way I do it is by using my index finger to poke inside and draw out the organs. This is much safer than using a knife or any other form of tool and works very well. You should then wash the body of the bird in cold water and pat it gently but thoroughly dry with kitchen paper.

Woodcock is browned on either side

Before you start cooking your woodcock, make sure your oven is preheated to 220C/450F. It is vital that the bird(s) go straight in to a very high oven heat.

Melt the butter in an ovenproof frying pan and brown the woodcock on both sides. Add the red wine and the rowan and apple jelly and heat until what will become the sauce is just simmering. Baste the woodcock well and put the pan in to the oven.

Red wine and rowan and apple jelly are added to browned woodcock

The woodcock should be in the oven for a total of twelve minutes but you want to take it out and briefly baste it about every three minutes. Remember to use oven gloves when lifting the frying pan as the handle will become ultra hot! It's all too easy to forget about this when you are lifting what is after all a frying pan.

Roast woodcock is rested before it is served

As with any other type of meat, it is vital to rest the woodcock when it comes out of the oven. Give it a minimum of five minutes.

Red wine, rowan berry and apple sauce for roast woodcock

A deep serving plate is desirable for serving a woodcock prepared in this way. Begin by spooning the sauce in to the bottom.

Roast woodcock is laid in bed of sauce

Lay the woodcock on the sauce before scattering with the roughly chopped flat leafed parsley to garnish. Tuck in and enjoy...

Tucking in to roast woodcock with red wine, rowan berry and apple sauce

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