Thursday 14th March, 2013
Fatty Duck Dinner
Fatty Duck Dinner
Fortunately for the esuriance of my guests I prepared the red cabbage and dessert (components) earlier. So all there was to do was to whizz up the peas, flash the asparagus and fry off the breasts and spuds.
An easy plan. Don't forget to warm the plates!

You'll need to pull the sorbet (you made earlier) out of the freezer in plenty of time so it relaxes a bit. It'll take at least an hour. I think the sorbet tastes far better if it isn't too cold - particularly with the Diplomat.

I just used the salad (which I'd also prepared earlier) for something to keep the guests occupied while I finished off the main course. It does taste a lot better freshly served on warm beans though and not after spending a day or two cooling its heels in the fridge.

Celery Parmesan Salad
Mixed with warm cannellini beans and almond flakes, doused with lemon juice.

Main Course
Duck Breasts Stuffed with Foie Gras and Figs

Braised Red Cabbage
With blueberries, Port and balsamic vinegar

Puréed Peas
Flavoured with chives and buttermilk.

Mustard and Ginger Game Chips
OK, a bit thicker than game chips - so better.

Charred Asparagus

Mango Sorbet on Crème Diplomat
Mixed with warm cannellini beans and almond flakes, doused with lemon juice.

Next Day
Leftover Red Cabbage and Sausage Casserole
To use up the spare cabbage. Especially if you have some leftover spuds too!

Duck Breasts Stuffed with Foie Gras and Figs
main fowl
I brought back a jar of preserved foie gras from my recent French skiing trip, and I decided to try out this recipe suggestion from my old sailing buddy Malcom Wintertown.
Well, obviously being a paranoid, obsessive, pack-rat I didn't use my new jar of foie gras. I used the old jar from 2005 that this new jar is replacing!
The foie gras isn't the most fattened I've ever come across, so it tastes a bit more 'livery' than those massive fresh ones you get from cruel butchers, but it's still tasty and has that lovely creamy texture you might expect. It's cooked, then preserved in goose fat, so it will keep for a really, really, long time. Whatever the sell-by date says :)
Getting the liver out and cleaning it off is a messy business - you might need to sit the jar in hot water to melt it free.

Although I figure I slightly overcooked my breasts (it's hard to account for the temperature rise after frying) Flora declared them of Michelin flavour.
So there!

Serves 1 person per breast

Take the duck breasts and the foie gras out of the fridge a good hour ahead of time so they come up to room temperature. Score the duck skin in deep criss-crosses without cutting into the flesh, then massage with salt or your preferred rub, and set aside for half an hour or so.
You can just use salt and pepper, or you can go with something more exotic like Chinese five-spices, cumin, mustard or ginger powder. I used salt, pepper and five-spice powder, which I thought worked well.
Put the oven on moderately hot.
Peel the fig's tough thin outer layer (or cut it away after slicing) and slice the fig horizontally quite thinly. About 1 fig per breast.
Cut slices of the foie gras about the thickness of one or two pound coins. Enough to taste, but not too overwhelming.

Remove any thin white muscle membrane from the flesh side of the breasts - this will curl the breasts up if left on.
Carefully slice a pocket into the breast starting from the wishbone side (the thicker side not covered in skin). Fill each pocket with a layer of foie gras, then slip in a layer of fig slices on the skin side I figured to protect the foie gras from too much heat. The breast should make a nice package around the filling, but you might need to pin the edge closed with a cocktail stick or tie up with string as the contents have a tendency to leak out.

Place the breasts skin-side down in a heavy cold ungreased skillet over a medium heat and allow to fry gently, periodically pouring off excess fat, until the skin is golden and crispy - about 10 minutes. The flesh should have changed to a grey colour about half-way through the breast (just as far as the pocket) Don't over-cook the centres or you'll lose all the foie gras - so be sure to flip the breasts over when they are coloured half-way through.
Carefully flip the breasts, then fry for a short time on the flesh side to brown and until they feel barely springy. If the breasts are not cooked in the centre or haven't coloured all the way through after 5 minutes then place the skillet uncovered, still skin-side up, in the oven to finish off for about 5 or 10 minutes.
You can't cook the fleshy side of the breasts for too long without drying them out, so you'll have to stick them in the oven if they're taking too long. Ideally they won't need any oven-time at all.
You want the duck breasts to be just cooked, but you don't want the foie gras to have all melted away. Which it will do if it gets too hot. So you must serve them rare.
Therefore a meat thermometer is essential; don't let the breast centres get above 120°F/50°C - that's the point at which you want to remove them from the pan or oven. Their internal temperature will continue to rise a couple more degrees after that.
Remove from the heat and allow them to rest, covered in tin foil, for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
Fucking Delicious!

Crispy Fried Mustard and Ginger Potato Slices
side staple veg vegan
Like roast potatoes. But in a frying pan.
And better than game chips - they still have soft centres!
Never understood the appeal of game chips frankly. Unless they're salt and vinegar flavoured. And nowhere near game.
So crisps then.

Serves 3

Parboil the potatoes until they are easily penetrated by a knife, but not falling apart. No need to peel them. Drain and rinse under cold water to cool.
Slice about the thickness of two pound coins (¼"), discarding the peel-covered end slices. Mix the spices with enough flour to make a mixture that will coat the potato slices - easiest done by putting the lot in a plastic bag and shaking it up.
Of course you'll need a plastic bag that doesn't have any fucking holes in it. But you'll be hard-pressed to find a plastic bag smaller than a bin-liner that doesn't have any fucking holes in it just in case somewhere in the world there's an unsupervised child with asphyxiophilia doing the fucking shopping.
Better that every single person's life be made just that little bit more shitty than that we should risk the suffering of a single child.
Heat a generous amount of a nice fat (duck or goose are good) in a large deep frying pan, and add the seasoned potato slices in a single layer. Cook steadily until golden brown, then flip and do the other side (about 15 minutes). Lift out with a slotted spoon and dry well on kitchen paper.
Serve immediately.

Braised Red Cabbage with Blueberries
I was going for a soft, buttery, braised red cabbage along the lines of green cabbage versions, and indeed the dish was very succulent. It did, though, have that slightly grainy texture which seems to be something of a feature of red cabbage. I mostly just used things I had in stock. I wasn't entirely sure about the ginger.

Serves 6

Melt the butter in a heavy cast-iron casserole and soften finely sliced onions.
Chop rosemary leaves and then grind them to a powder in a pestle and mortar. Add about 2 tsps to the sweating onions.
Cut up a few slices of bacon into lardons, and add them to the onions once they're glassy. Grate a knob of ginger and finely slice a few garlic cloves and add them to the pot. Stir until the bacon is cooked.
Slice a medium red cabbage you'll get a lot of cabbage! quite finely. I think thick red cabbage slices would be unpalatable? Gradually add to the pot and stir until everything is well coated (add more butter if necessary).
Throw in a generous glass of Port and bubble it up, add a shot or two of Balsamic vinegar, and the blueberries. Season.
Cook in a low oven for an hour or two until the cabbage is really tender.
Pretty good actually. Very rich.

Puréed Peas with Buttermilk
side veg
I decided to make this with chives since I had a load in the fridge, but I would have used onions, or spring onions otherwise. Or no onions at all. You decide.

Serves 4

Braise the peas gently with the butter chives and white wine.
It won't take long with frozen peas, but fresh ones might take a while to soften.
Blend with a tablespoon or so of buttermilk, adding more wine, stock or water to moisten as necessary.
Serve immediately.
Nice tang with the buttermilk.
If you're going to reheat them I would avoid boiling the buttermilk.

Charred Asparagus
side veg vegan
Quick. Easy. Delicious. You can scatter with sea salt, cracked black pepper or wafers of Parmesan depending on what you plan on doing with them.

Snap off the asparagus spears' woody stems where they naturally break.
Slice in half at a diagonal if they're long, or you want shorter spears.
Bring some acidulated, salted water to the boil and par-boil the asparagus for between 30 and 60 seconds. Depending on how crunchy you like them. Immediately plunge under cold running water to cool.
Dry, and brush with olive oil. Set aside until needed.
Heat a griddle or heavy frying pan until extremely hot, throw in the asparagus and leave them to crackle, rolling them around occasionally. Remove when nicely charred all over.
Serve immediately, scattered with your seasonings of choice.

Mango Sorbet on Crème Diplomat
dessert raw veg
I had this combination at Andrew Fairlie's place - and it was lovely, so I thought I'd have a go too.
It's definitely a good idea to take your sorbet out of the freezer an hour or so early so it has time to soften.

Makes about a litre

Pipe an attractively scalloped layer of the crème onto a small plate or dish. You can use that fancy piping gadget you bought earlier in the week from Lidl - the one that looks like a comedy giant syringe.
Using a spoon stored in a jug of boiling-hot water, scoop out a perfect rugby-ball shaped sorbet quenelle and lay it caressingly on the cream.
Serve to delighted guests.
Not, perhaps, as nice as Andrew Fairlie's but pretty good. I think my sorbet wasn't as mango-y as his, and perhaps not as tart. Possibly it would have worked better with a bit less sugar in it, with the crème and all.
If you are in a hurry, or lazy, you can just whip up some cream with maple syrup as a viable alternative to the Diplomat.
And maybe add a splash of tequila!

Leftover Red Cabbage and Sausage Casserole
main meat stew
A terrific way to use up leftover red cabbage casserole, though you could also make it from raw cabbage if you like it enough - casserole the red cabbage with the onions and drink for half an hour or so first.
You could use whatever drink you fancy: beer, cider, wine or port (in my case).
I mean of course that you should casserole the red cabbage with the onions and the drink, but now I come to mention it...

Put the leftover braised red cabbage in a casserole dish in a low oven and moisten with a little more drink.
Cut up the par-cooked potatoes and lay them on top of the cabbage.
Fry the sausages to brown them, cut them into pieces and add them to the casserole dish.
Slice the onions and fry them up to soften, throw in a few peeled halved garlic cloves, then add them to the casserole dish if you like.
Peel and cut up a few apples or some other fruit and add them to the casserole.
Cook until the sausages are sizzling and everything is softened.
Hmmmmmm. Leftovers.