Spring’s a great time for duck. Deliciously iridescent dib-dabbing mallards quacking across the ponds amorously at their bevies of brindled she-duck. And more interestingly for our tables, a farmed roast duckling for Mayday holiday. Not a tradition but a crispishly irresistible treat. And though a decent duck will set you back a bit – they’ve waddled through a happy enough life.
Nigella Lawson reinvents recipes for poaching duck. This means you can cook ahead and leave it in the fridge until it’s wanted – finishing it off in a well fired oven. It’s the perfect way to make sure it’s all juicily cooked without going stringy. And it makes for an enriched and silken duck soup. Later.
So grab the bird in hand and pop it in your cauldron. Cover in water. Add salt and I think some red wine vinegar. This cuts through the cloy of all that duck fat and reduces the smell factor, which in a tiny chi chi apartment, can linger unpleasantly for days, ruining the holiday atmos. And as The Belgian and I have just made it through a year of wedded bliss, we need all the augurs on side. Simmer, boil lightly, whatever, for about forty minutes and remove from the pot. Cool off and put in the fridge. Now you can add the giblets to the liquid and some sherry and reduce by about a third.
Fish out the bits and cool. When you are good to go for the meal take the little ducky out of the fridge for an hour, rub the skin vigorously with salt and lemon juice so that it puckers up a bit. Now, there are very few reasons I would sacrifice my home-made marmalade to any altar but toast. This is one. Spoon it liberally over the bird and pop into a high oven. There It should sizzle, caramelise and crisp within half an hour. An average duck will only have enough meat for a greedy two. Three at a push. But who needs someone else muscling in?
Now here’s the best bit. Remove the meat and put the carcass back into the oven to roast the bones for an hour. Then put all that back in the pot with the cold stock and simmer for another hour. You’ll get a fabulously rich elixir of bird. At this time of year, it’s a sin to have anything other than Jersey Royals. Boiled in their tattered skins with some mint.And a curly leaf salad with spring onions, nicely dressed to chaperone your orangey duck. Just so with a bottle of Corbières.