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  • Ptarmigan

    Apparently barren rocks greet you along the coast of Greenland - a large part of the year even in the form of frozen, snow-covered landscapes. From a distance it is hard to imagine how such an immediate inhospitable terrain can provide conditions for birds and wildlife. But you will be surprised. Birds are numerous in Greenland. Approximately 60 bird species breed regularly in Greenland, while more than 150 species are summer visitors.

    The ptarmigan is Greenland’s only gallinaceous bird, the size of a small hen. It breeds all over Greenland and can be found in practically any terrain - although most commonly in the tundra, hiding between rocks or bushes.

    The ptarmigan lives year round in Greenland. Populations vary from year to year, but approximately every 10 years there is a “ptarmigan-year” where the bird is found in particularly large numbers. All the same ptarmigans are in general estimated to be in large numbers in Greenland.

    A Well-Camouflaged Bird
    The bird can be difficult to spot due to its well-camouflaged plumage: Ptarmigans change their plumage according to season and are thus brownish with dark stripes in summer, but completely white in winter. These changes in appearance are so they can hide when they eat. In summer, they blend into the tundra plants and look like shadows; in winter, they look like the snowy ground they walk on. It is furthermore worth noting that the feathers on the legs continue all the way out between the toes.

    Once spotted it is however possible to get very close and it is not uncommon to see a ptarmigan stay put even if you shoot one right next to it! Previously ptarmigans were caught with snares; Children would simply creep up on the ptarmigans from behind and swing the noose around the neck of these winged delights.

    Ptarmigan meat … and Ptarmigan-Schnapps!
    Ptarmigans are a sought after delicacy that can be cooked in many ways - One example could be honey marinated ptarmigan-breast with confit of ptarmigan thigh. Furthermore the gizzard can be inflated like a balloon and hung to dry. Once dry the contents of the gizzard are the perfect essence for schnapps! Ptarmigan-schnapps will never taste the same since it inherently depends on what the ptarmigan has eaten. In the old days the dried gizzards were used as baby-rattles since the seeds, shells, pebbles and twigs rattled marvellously in the dried bags.

  • Roasted Ptarmigan

    4 ptarmigan oven ready
    1 onion roughly chopped
    4 garlic cloves roughly chopped
    3 carrots
    4 sprigs of thyme

    For the rosti
    3 large baked potatoes
    Cooked, cooled, peeled and grated potatoes, then grate them.
    50g butter salt and pepper
    ½ cabbages sliced
    2 baked, peeled and chopped beetroot
    3 rashers of smoked bacon sliced

    Method
    Drizzle the bird with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. In a hot casserole dish add some olive oil and the vegetables and sauté for a few minutes and add the thyme. Sit the bird on the vegetables and put the lid on. Roast for 10-12 minutes at 200 degrees or until cooked.

    Shape and mould the rosti and place in a hot oiled frying pan and sauté. Sauté the cabbage in the pan with the bacon tossing occasionally until cooked.

    Once the bird is cooked remove from the oven and rest. While the bird is resting make the sauce for this.

    Put the vegetables back on the stove and add 1/4 bottle of red wine and a good glug of port. Add a tsp of redcurrant jelly and ½ litre of good chicken stock. Reduce this down by 5/6 and pass through a sieve into another saucepan. Bring to the boil and add a knob of butter and correct the seasoning.

    Place the rosti on a warm plate, place the cabbage on top.
    Slice the breasts off the bird and place over the cabbage.
    Pour over sauce and serve.