Down in Somerset you need to wear an extra jumper. Unless you are cooking, in which case do it as close to naked as possible, because the heat from the fire in the living room and Aga in the kitchen is fierce.
Duck with “Jumperland” Sauce
Score the skins on the duck breasts and place them all on a wire rack. Pour boiling water over them to draw out some of the fat. Repeat. Dry with a clean tea towel and season aggressively. Set aside.
Whilst the duck breasts are recovering from their spat with the boiling water it’s time to get stuck into the Jumperland sauce - so called because of Somerset’s chilly winters and its vague similarity to Cumberland sauce.
It’s a sauce of necessity. A sauce born out of improvisation.A sauce of great pride. Gently fry two chopped red onions in butter until soft. And then add 3 skinned and chopped apples and the same of pears. Pour in a large glass of orange juice and add a splash of Tabasco or Habernero hot sauce. Throw in some sage leaves. A glug of cider vinegar helps to give it some zing. And a spoon of red currant jelly delivers sweetness and gloss. Stir attentively on a low heat until the fruit has capitulated and the mixture has become a sauce. Check the taste frequently and adjust as necessary.
Whilst stirring the Jumperland sauce it’s time to render the duck breasts. Having salted the skin side liberally place the breasts skin side down in a hot frying pan in 2 batches. The fat should freely run. Spoon the fat out of the pan and retain for roast potatoes another day. Once you’ve got as much fat from the breasts as you think is possible and skins are feeling slightly crisp to the touch transfer them to a wire rack in a roasting tray. Repeat for the second batch.
Re-season the breasts and launch them into the top of a hot oven to roast for 10 minutes MAX. Assemble mashed potato and beans in the meantime. Remove breasts from the oven and allow them to rest for as long as you can. Carve on the diagonal and serve.
The Jumperland sauce was a great success. It was sweet and sour with a satisfying background kick of chilli. It was a great plate-mate for the duck which had emerged from its three stage cooking process with crisp skin, pink flesh and deep flavour. Perfect.
Vanilla and Cardamom Plum Crumble
This is an evolution of my recent baked plums recipe, but given a tweak and then crumbled.
Steep a bowlful of plums in rum, bourbon or Canadian whisky (you want sweetness rather than the woody, smokiness of Scotch). Add half a dozen cardamom pods and a quarter of a vanilla pod to the mixture. Leave for half an hour. Then lay out the plums in a roasting tray, sprinkle with brown sugar and roast for 10 minutes. You want the fruit to slightly caramelise and the booze to burn off. Remove from the oven and breathe in the incredible smell. Your nostrils will tingle with the fragrant burst of tropical cardamom and the sweet homeliness of vanilla. Remove the cardamom pods and the vanilla and set aside. Once cooled slightly, add a layer of crumble which is comprised of equal measures of flour, sugar and butter.
The crumble emerged with splendid appearance that resembled an old fashioned map of the world. You can clearly see a plumy North and South America, Europe and a distorted Africa seeping through the crumble topping.
Cook at a lowish temperature for the best part of an hour before serving to excited friends and family with a dollop of crème fraiche. The vanilla and cardamom add layers of sophistication to an otherwise humble crumble.