A good roast is what the people of Britain look forward to, whether it be every Sunday or once in a while. It was almost always the roast potatoes and chicken that I looked forward to most as a young’n, the chicken was known as “favourite chicken” in my household, yet I haven’t managed to find the taste of that chicken again. We don’t have many roast dinners now, I’m not entirely sure why, maybe it’s the fact that I’m quite adamant that we try new meals every week. I don’t think we’ve had a repeat of a meal since we moved in! You have to really understand how each part of the Sunday dinner works for it to be a success. The meat needs to rest, the roasts parboiled and shaken up, veg should either be roasted or boiled for no longer than 4-5 minutes. People are more aware now of how to bring out the flavours and quality of the food, thanks to TV Chefs, so the Sunday roast is definitely becoming better with age and is getting further away from the soggy veg and dried out meat that we remember from back in the day.
I’ve only ever roasted a nice leg of lamb or chicken, but this week’s recipe called for a plump duck from Mr Slater. As hesitant as I was, it only reminded me that this project is becoming so useful to me, as I am encouraged to use ingredients that I wouldn’t use normally in everyday cooking. So off we trotted on a duck hunt, on a somewhat grey and bitter Monday afternoon, to our local street of butchers and green grocers. We managed to find two ducks, one being only a crown in a supermarket and the other being a 2.3 kg duck from a butchers. The prices differed greatly as you would expect and at first I was happy to go along with the six pound and something pence duck crown, until we took it to the till and my gut told me to put it back. I think I had a little Nigel Slater on my shoulder telling me to rethink. On our way home we stopped off at the first butchers and bought the very heavy, seventeen pound and something pence Gressingham duck. I don’t think I have ever spent as much as ten pounds on a particular food item, so this was a first, and I felt good for it. Free range, good quality, and no waste.
The Gressingham duck is a cross breed of a Mallard and a Pekin duck which provides more meat on the bird rather than mostly bones and gristle. I felt even more encouraged when I visited their website, www.gressinghamduck.co.uk and saw what they are all about. If you don’t have a chance to visit where your food is coming from, especially your meat, I encourage you to at least to go online and find out. I know most people aren’t that bothered and just want to eat the damn thing but as a person who wants to cook for a living, I find it very rewarding.
There was also a call for a wine glass of Marsala, again another ingredient I wouldn’t of normally bought. This stuff isn’t cheap either, a desert wine from Italy found in Tescos for ten pounds, I was realising that I was more excited about this meal than worrying about the amount of money I was spending. Crazy? Maybe a little…
The recipe was very easy to follow, and it didn’t take alot of time at all, except for the preparing of the duck. To ensure a crispy skin, prick the bird all over then ladle hot water over the skin, this will tighten the pores. Leave in a cool place, not the fridge, for about an hour, or even better over night.
As there wasn’t alot of things going on, it didn’t encompass the stress of cooking a normal Sunday roast, but preparation is key. The skin crisped up perfectly and tasted just how you want a crispy duck skin to taste. The gravy went very well with the flavour of the duck, I almost feel I should’ve added a little more Masala, however, it had quite a fruity taste and didn’t overpower the duck at all.
We now have half a duck left, which we intend to eat in sandwiches for the rest of the week, another perk to a roast!
Shall we start? Cool, you will need:
A wine glass of Marsala, and a little extra
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
*750g floury potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
a bushy sprig of Rosemary
4 bay leaves
a plump duck, mine was about 2.3 kg
+ 50g butter, about 1 tbsp flour, S&P and a ladleful of stock or water.
Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Real food, 1998
*Sidenote: If you are feeding more than two people, I would suggest using a few more potatoes, as the original recipe gives you enough for four small roast potatoes each.
As above, start by pricking the duck skin and pouring hot water over it, do this once or twice more and leave in a cool place for about an hour.
With the peeled potatoes, cut in half and boil them until almost tender. Meanwhile, cook the onions in the butter until soft, then drain the potatoes. Set aside half of them and with the other half, roughly crush with a fork and add to the softened onions. Add salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6.
Put the duck in a roasting tin and surround it with the reserved boiled potatoes. Fill the inside with the crushed potatoes and onions and add the bay leaves and rosemary. Rub a little salt over the skin and roast for 30-40 minutes.
The bird, stuffed with potatoes, onions, rosemary and bay. Yum!
When the tin fills with juices from the duck, baste the potatoes. Pour the Marsala into the tray and continue to roast for another 30 minutes until the skin is crisp and the flesh is brown and moist.
Lift the duck and potatoes out onto another baking tray or plate, cover with foil and rest for about 20 minutes. Pour the left over juices into a saucepan over a medium heat and sprinkle the tablespoon of flour into it to thicken the gravy up, when it starts to colour, add a little more Marsala and the ladle of stock or water. Simmer until thickened, taste and season with salt and pepper.
Take to the table with the roast potatoes surrounding it, and the gravy in a serving jug. I also served lightly boiled broccoli with melting butter with my roast, it’s up to you what you want to serve with it!