Roast duck dinner

Last weekend I decided to roast a (german) duck I had in the freezer (and to free up the space for another one!). I still had some red cabbage, parsnips and pears in the larder from the Christmas break, so I bought some brussels sprouts for a partial re-enactment of the highly succcessful Christmas dinner. Here are some photos of the lavish affair:

IMG_7680 by alecmuffett IMG_7682 by alecmuffett IMG_7684 by alecmuffett IMG_7689 by alecmuffett IMG_7690 by alecmuffett IMG_7695 by alecmuffett IMG_7698 by alecmuffett IMG_7702 by alecmuffett IMG_7711 by alecmuffett IMG_7713 by alecmuffett

I used Delia’s roast duck recipe which worked really well, even in my thermostat-busted oven. I took it out almost an hour before it was due according to the recipe and the duck was cooked to perfection – crispy skin but juicy meat. Will test in new oven and report on timing again.

Ingredients

1 oven -ready duck weighing 2.25kg (5lb) to 2.7kg (6lb)
salt flakes
freshly milled black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 220ºC, 425ºF gas mark 7. Prepare the duck by wiping it as dry as possible with kitchen paper. Then, using a small skewer, prick the fatty bits of the skin, particularly between the legs and the breast. Now either place it on the roasting rack in the tin or make a rack yourself by crumpling the kitchen foil and placing it in the bottom of the roasting tin. Season with salt flakes and freshly milled black pepper, using quite a lot of salt, as this encourages crunchiness. Now place the tin on a highish shelf of the pre-heated oven.

After 20 minutes turn the heat down to gas mark 4. 180ºC / 350ºF / gas mark 4, then basically that’s all you have to do is leave it alone for 2½ hours (or 30 minutes longer for a 2.7 kg bird). During the cooking time, using an oven glove to protect your hands, remove the tin from the oven and drain the fat from the corner of the tin – do this about 3 times (the fat is brilliant for roast potatoes, so don’t throw it away).

When the cooking time is up the duck skin should sound crisp when it is tapped with a knife; if it’s not, pop it back in the oven for a bit longer, then when it’s cooked allow the duck to rest for 5 minutes or so, then divide it into portions: all you need to do is cut the bird in half lengthways (ie, along the length of the breast then either side of the backbone) with a sharp knife, then cut the halves into quarters, leaving any escaped pieces of bone behind. (You may need some help with some kitchen scissors here.) Serve with the sauce poured around so as not to lose the crispness of the skin.

Featured side-dishes:
Red cabbage with apples & juniper berries
Brussels sprouts with parmesan & almonds
Roast parsnips and pears with thyme

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Roast parsnips and pears with thyme

I have made this first time for 2009 Christmas dinner and it worked wonderfully. The pears are lighter than other vegetables and add an extra dimension to the side dishes flavours.

Ingredients:
Serves 6-8

1kg (2lb 4 oz) parsnips
5 medium onions
6 conference pears unpeeled
juice of 1 lemon and rind of 1/2
4 tbsp olive oil
25g (1oz) butter melted

Wash the parsnips and peel if they are particularly dirty. Cutting lenghtways, halve or quarter them, depending on size. Halve the onions and cut each half into six wedges. Quarter the pears lengthways and remove the core from each piece. Toss the pears the lemon juice and rind. Parboil the parsnips for three minutes then toss them and the onions and pears in a large roasting tin (you want everything to be able to lie in a single layer) with the oil, butter, thyme and some seasoning. Turn everything over to make sure it is all coated in fat. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top and roast for 25-30 minutes in an oven preheated to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 (the roast should be out by now). You need to turn them over once or twice (once is fine if you are too busy with other dishes). Everything should be tender and slightly caramelised.

Baked pears with ginger and cardamom

A wonderful dessert (from the Sunday Times magazine) for those times you don’t want to make anything too heavy or have only a few minutes to prepare. The most important about this is the right size of the tin, as pears need to be close together so all the buttery, cardamomy and gingery goodness permeates through them.

4 pears, peeled, halved and cored
75g dark brown sugar
4 tbsp runny honey
1½ tsp ground ginger (I used fresh ginger, thinly sliced using a grater)
Juice and finely grated zest of ½ lemon
4 tbsp unsalted butter
8 cardamom pods, squashed

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Put the pear halves in a small roasting pan, cut side down and in a single layer, so they fit relatively snugly. Sprinkle with the sugar, honey, ginger, lemon juice and zest. Dot with the butter and tuck in the cardamom pods.

Put the pan in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, turning the pears cut side up and basting halfway through, until the fruit is tender and the sauce is bubbling and sweet. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then serve with cream, ice cream or yoghurt.