A ducking good Christmas feast…

by bfbaker

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Now, I may have mentioned this once or twice but this year my mama is whisking us off to Tunisia for Christmas. We fly today and arrive back in Manchester on Christmas Day evening (that’s a mouthful) and whilst we will be having a cheeky Christmas dinner at the hotel I didn’t want to not get the chance to cook a tasty festive feast myself so the Monday before we flew we hosted a fake Christmas. Now, last year I had only just stopped being a vegetarian (no,I have no idea what took me so long, either) and I cooked a turkey for the first time all by myself. That was an experience and a half, I’ll tell you that for free. This year, in the spirit of this food blogging and cuisine experimentation malarkey we decided upon a duck (giblets still hanging around like a bad bloody penny, I’ll have you know…thankfully they were nicely tucked away in a little bag).

Now, I’ve only eaten duck a handful of times and I’ve never attempted to cook one before so it was a little trial, error and wishful thinking on my part as I put together a basic rub of flavours I thought would compliment the meat. What’s more, I was also hyper aware of serving a tough, dry or over-cooked bird so I wanted to make sure there was lots of moisture in the pan whilst it was roasting.

The trimmings, as it were, were all fairly familiar Christmas staples including roast veg, brussels (using this recipe), cranberry sauce, stuffing and Yorkshire puddings (Aunt Bessie’s finest as I am, at this point in time, an abysmal Yorkshire pudding maker!). And for dessert I went for a pomegranate Eton mess – recipe coming up on the next post!

I think this is the perfect time to experiment with old favourites and new ventures. What are you having for Christmas dinner this year?

Recipe

Duck
Fresh thyme
1 large orange
1 brown onion
1 tbsp course sea salt
1 tsp fresh black pepper

Carrots
1 tsp dried coriander
Sea salt
Olive oil

Parsnips
Honey
Sea salt
Black pepper
Olive oil

1 packet pre-made sage and onion stuffing
200g sausage meat
1 brown onion
Fresh thyme

Potatoes
Goose fat (or use the pan filled with duck fat once you’ve cooked your bird)
4 cloves of garlic
5 springs of thyme
Fresh rosemary

1. Take your duck out of the fridge a good half an hour before you plan on cooking to let it rest and come to room temperature.
2. Preheat oven to 220.
3. Take a handful of fresh thyme and place on a chopping board, grate the zest of half your orange on top of the thyme and chop all together so they’re nice and fine and combined. Then add your sea salt to the mix and rub into the duck. Chop up the onion and half the orange and lay in your roasting tray, placing your duck on top. Then chop up the remainder of the orange and place inside the cavity with a few sprigs of thyme. Don’t completely block the cavity as you want the heat to whoosh through the bird, cooking it from the inside as well as out.
4. Duck cooking time; weigh your duck without the giblets inside it (you could use these to make a lovely gravy). You want to give 20 minutes for each 500g and then an extra 20 minutes on top of that. The skin should be lovely, golden and crisp.
5. Whilst your duck is cooking you want to get prepping everything else. I started with the stuffing; start by making up a batch of sage and onion stuffing (if you want to make everything from scratch, I’d be highly impressed however we already had packets of stuffing in the pantry so I merely…adapted things). Leave to one side and dice up an onion; sauté with a little olive oil until soft and translucent then add in a 1 tsp of thyme and a little rosemary. Break up your sausage meat and brown off with the onions then add to your stuffing, mixing it up with a fork until it’s all blended beautifully. Pop in an ovenproof dish.
6. Next, the veg; peel and chop potatoes, carrots, brussels and parsnips. Boil the potatoes, carrots and parsnips until soft and fluffy.
7. When the duck is finished take out of the oven, wrap in foil (and a few towels for good measure!). Leave this to rest whilst everything else goes in the oven. Resting the meat not only frees up the oven for everything else but it also ensures that you don’t lose any of those gorgeous juices and flavours. The meat will be melt in your mouth tender.
8. Pop a pan with goose fat in it in the oven for ten minutes then ruffle up the potatoes making all the edges fluffy. When the ten minutes is up and the goose fat has melted (careful now it spits!) throw in your garlic and herbs, then tip in the potatoes.
9. Carrots; drizzle with oil, season with herbs and salt and pepper.
10. Parsnips; drizzle with oil and honey and season.
11. Place all your vegetables, potatoes and stuffing into the oven for 30/40 minutes. Your potatoes should be crisp, your veggies tender and your stuffing gorgeous and crunchy.
12. At this point I blanched some green beans in boiling water and served with a little butter to add some freshness to the plate.
13. Serve altogether and enjoy!

Gravy tip; a little citrus works fantastic in gravy but if you do this recipe add a teaspoon or two of orange marmalade to the mix. It’ll be subtle but it’ll work really well and pick up the flavours of your meal beautifully.

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