Saturday 5 January 2008

Roast Wild Duck with Winter Vegetables

Photo from ŽakQ100 on Flickr.

Dad and I went on a boys' trup to Bedford today for a much needed haircut and other essentials. We came back with 3 wild duck and a great deal of excitement about what to do with them. Unfortunately I've been an arse and haven't taken any pictures. But then again it's quite hard to make roasted game look attractive. So you'll have to use your imagination.

We bought 3 birds to feed 4 people which is fairly generous. But then again they are only small and there is very little meat on the legs. Having seen contestants on Master Chef screw up wild duck I knew that they are a lot more fickle to cope with than their commercially reared cousins. Being smaller, less fatty and wild it's hard to know how long to cook them for. If the bird is young then a rapid roasting will deliver a beautifully pink supper whereas if they are a bit older then pot roasting or stewing is a better option.

I hadn't appreciated that wild duck is so much more gamey than normal duck. When I washed the birds I had to breathe through my mouth to avoid getting the sweet, sickly smell of flesh into my nostrils... after all they do have a tendency to pick up smells and not let them go as this picture from the Hagia Sophia testifies!

As I washed the third bird something seemed wrong. The flesh felt ruptured. And the water flowed with blood. It was as if it hadn't been gutted properly. I washed it thoroughly and left them all to dry in cool drying air of the larder.

When I brought them out again it was clear that the third bird was a bit smellier than the others. Foolishly I persevered. I heated a roasting pan in the aga and then coverd the birds in salt, pepper, olive oil and butter. In the meatime I heated some goose fat and added some peeled beetroot, sweede and par-steamed potatoes to the hot fat.

An hour later a pan of gorgeously crispy winter root vegetables emerged along with a very gamey trio of wild duck. Their skins were crispy and brown. 2 were perfect. 1 was iffy. As I removed it from the pan it's cavity oozed a deep brown effluent of gamey blood. Keen to avoid this contaminating the other two birds, we quickly bagged it up and through it away. Such a shame. But lucky we hadn't pot roasted or stewed all three together. It also meant that we couldn't have proper gravy...

The meat was delicious. Strong flavoured, juicy and very savoury. The duck was complemented by the earthy sweetness of the beetroot and the crispy gooseyness of the potatoes and sweede.

I've learnt that if meat seems a bit iffy, then don't mess around with it... bin it!

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