I was recently given a whole duck by a friend whose freezer had given up the ghost (it’s good to have disconnected friends) which came as a huge treat given the supermarket prices of Daffy and his mates.
Duck is probably my favourite meat, but despite that when faced with a whole one, I was a little unsure of what to do with it. Previous experiences with duck in my own kitchen to date have involved neatly packaged pairs of breasts.
I turned to Nigel Slater’s wonderful Real Food for inspiration and was not disappointed. Ripping off his ideas I came up with the following.
But easy and satisfying. Duck contains so much fat that you don’t need to be too careful about your cooking times – the fat will keep the flesh moist even if you overdo it a bit.
One of the best bits about roast duck is getting a crispy skin. This is best achieved by slashing the skin crisscross fashion with a sharp knife. Then place the duck in a clean basin and pour over a kettle’s worth of boiling water. This will leach some of the fat from underneath the skin. After a few minutes it’s bath, remove the duck and pat dry with kitchen paper. You can then season with salt and pepper and roast in a reasonably hot oven (180 degrees C). A 2 kilo duck will take about an hour and a half.
If you want a bit more excitement, grate an apple and the zest of a couple of oranges and mix in a bowl with a couple of handfuls of fresh bread-crumbs. Add the juice of the oranges – just enough to bind the mixture. Season well. Mix these ingredients into a stuffing consistency and stuff the duck before you stick it in the oven.
Potatoes cooked in duck fat
As the duck roasts, you’ll notice that it produces an awful lot of fat (pints of the stuff). It’s a good idea to keep draining the fat away, but don’t chuck it. Cook your spuds in it!
Chop your potatoes into halves and add to a dry pan with a couple of peeled garlic cloves. Pour over enough duck fat to just cover the spuds. Bring the duck fat to the boil, reduce the heat, cover the pan and cook the potatoes over a low, low heat until soft. At this point, pour off the duck fat (again, don’t throw it away!) and return the uncovered pan to the heat for a few more minutes while the potatoes begin to brown and crisp.
It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that you won’t need many potatoes per person. The duck fat makes them taste fabulous but also makes them incredibly rich, so beware!
Serve the potatoes with the roast duck and some greens – savoy cabbage, Brussels Sprouts or similar, saving some for tomorrow’s breakfast.
Bubble and Quack.
Add a little oil to a frying pan and throw in your left-over duck-fat potatoes. As the potatoes start to brown, crush them lightly with the back of a fork. Toss in your left over greens (Savoy cabbage is particularly good) and mix well. Cook until the potatoes are starting to crisp on the outside and serve topped with a fried egg.
Thanks to Nigel Slater for his ideas and recipes. You can buy Real Food here.
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