The woodcock is a beautiful, plump little bird, though its plumage and its nature make it rather elusive. Native to much of the UK, its numbers are multiplied fivefold in the Autumn by migrations from Finland and Russia. The very fine pin feathers on its wing have been used to paint the famous gold stripe on Rolls Royce cars.
The meat of the bird is rather strange, in that the breast meat is darker than the leg meat, the reverse of the norm. The flavour of the meat is less rich than duck but sweet and satisfying. It’s common to roast the woodcock with its head intact, tucked down with its long beak sown through the flesh where you removed the giblets. And, should you like to, the bird can be roasted whole, with its offal intact, since the woodcock evacuates itself as it launches into flight!
Roast Woodcock on Charred Sourdough and Cavolo Nero with Black Cherry and Red Wine Sauce
- November 27, 2018
- 2 as a starter Servings
- 30 min
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- 1 woodcock (insides cleaned)
- 1 or 2 rashers of streaky bacon
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 6 leaves of cavolo nero (stalk removed), sliced
- 2 slices of sourdough bread
- 1 425g tin of pitted black cherries
- 150ml red wine
- 1 tablespoon red currant jelly, or similar
- Step 1
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (fan)
- Step 2
- Wrap the woodcock tightly and neatly in the bacon. Season.
- Step 3
- Heat an ovenproof shallow pan on a reasonably high heat, add a little oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Fry the bird on all sides, to give colour and to start to warm the bird through. Turn on its back, transfer to the oven and roast for 15 minutes.
- Step 4
- Meanwhile drain the cherries from their syrup and add to a pan to heat. Add the wine and red currant jelly. Season. Bring to the boil to reduce the wine and soften the cherries. If you want a smooth sauce, blend it with a hand blender. Then reduce to the consistency you prefer. Adding a little butter at this stage will enrich the sauce and give it shine.
- Step 5
- Either rub the sourdough bread slices in olive oil to char on a griddle, or lightly toast them in a toaster. When done, set to one side.
- Step 6
- When the bird is roasted, remove from the oven and cut in half, most easily with poultry shears. Place each half bird, cavity side down, onto each slice of toast to rest. Some of the juices from the meat will be soaked into the toast.
- Step 7
- While the meat is resting, add 1 tablespoon of butter to a lidded pan on a medium-low heat, melt, add a splash of water and the cavolo nero, then cover and wilt the leaves. This should only take a couple of minutes
- Step 8
- By now you can plate up. On warm plates, place a layer of cavolo nero, then the toast with half bird, and add your sauce.