Wild Mallard

Duck is one of DonQui’s favourite meats. He is also very fond of game.

Imagine his joy, therefore, at seeing a wild mallard duck at his local butchers. It was too much to resist so he picked it up, took it home and then did a bit of research on how to best cook the bird — this being his first attempt.


A wild mallard is much smaller than a farmed duck — just about perfect for two people. It also has very little fat. Unlike a domestic duck, there is no need to render the fat and the whole bird can be roasted rather than separating the legs and breasts. Because the bird is so small the best way to prepare it is by browning it all over in a hot pan and then finishing it off in the oven.

This is DonQui’s recipe.


Ingredients for the roast mallard for two people
1 wild mallard
1 onion quartered
2 carrots roughly chopped
1 garlic clove peeled and halved
1 lemon cut in half
A good bunch of fresh thyme
Oil and butter for cooking

Accompaniments (all optional)
1 apple cored and left whole with the skin on
Butter, raisins and a splash of rum to fill the inside of the apple
A handful of dried porcini mushrooms, soaked for at least 30 minutes
A good splash of red wine to deglaze the pan
Wild rice
Seasonal vegetables
Cranberry sauce

Take the duck out of the fridge at least one hour before cooking so that it comes to room temperature.

Pre-heat the oven to 200º C. Meanwhile rub sea salt all over the duck, including the cavity. Salt on the skin will help to crisp it as well as adding flavour.

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Place the quartered onion, chopped carrot and garlic in a roasting pan, douse with a little oil and place in the heated oven to roast for 30-45 minutes until the vegetables are nice and dark but not burned.

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As the roasting time for the duck is only 12-15 minutes, DonQui does this in advance to help create a deep rich sauce. Otherwise the vegetables will not imbue the dark roasted flavours to the sauce. Take the vegetables out of the oven once they are nicely roasted and set aside.

Put the soaked wild rice on to boil and then simmer about 45 minutes before serving. DonQui’s method for cooking wild rice is fully explained here. Once cooked the drained rice can happily sit in a lidded pot, off the heat, and will remain warm for at least 15 minutes if you do not get your timings right.

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Once the vegetables are out of the oven, heat a mix of butter and oil in a large, heavy frying pan. Butter will give flavour and the oil will prevent it from burning. Brown the duck on all sides using tongs or a large spoon and fork to turn it. This will take about 10 minutes.

Take the bird out of the pan. Place it on a rack above the vegetables in the roasting pan. Then stuff the cavity of the duck with the halved lemons and sprigs of thyme. This will add flavour to the bird and the lemon will steam it from the inside while it roasts. Add the cored apple stuffed with butter, raisins and rum to the rack.

Put the roasting pan with the duck and apple above the vegetables into the oven and roast for 12-15 minutes. After 15 minutes the meat will still have some pink to it but more than that will cause it to dry out and toughen up. Twelve minutes will be just enough to cook through leaving the meat a little rarer.

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Place the duck on a carving board, cover with tinfoil and a couple of tea-towels (dishcloths) and let it rest for 10-20 minutes. In this time the duck will continue to slowly cook from the inside out. This will even the cooking process which up to now has been from the outside in. If you do not rest for at leat 10 minutes the meat will not be properly cooked.strain.jpg

Cook the accompanying vegetables and make the sauce while the duck is resting.
To make the sauce, deglaze the roasting pan with a good splash of red wine over the roasted vegetables, stirring it all up over a low heat and scraping up the brown bits. Then strain the liquid into a pre-prepared gravy base. As the wild duck has very little fat there is no need to spoon anything off.

DonQui’s gravy base is a variation of his rich sauce. A simple alternative could be chicken stock thickened with a roux of butter and flour.mushrooms.jpg

On this occasion DonQui decides to add some dried porcini mushrooms. As the duck is roasting he pan fries the soaked mushrooms in a butter-oil mix, using the same pan he browned the duck in without cleaning it. Then he adds them to the sauce along with the water they had been soaking in. This gives the gravy a deep earthy taste which perfectly matches the wild duck.


DonQui serves the duck with the wild rice, fresh kale from his allotment and french beans. Although not seasonal, he had picked the beans in season and froze them a few months ago. They were an excellent additional accompaniment.

As for the mallard — it was utterly delicious. DonQui will definitely try it again. Next time he will not bother with the baked apple. It is a traditional addition to a game bird, and went well with it, but DonQui thought the cranberry sauce was better and there was no need of two different sweet accompaniments.

DonQui advises looking out for pellets when eating a wild bird.  He found three shotgun pellets in this mallard. He takes this as a good sign that the mallard will have been living freely as a wild bird should before succumbing to the hunter rather than the abattoir.


Magic Garden Carpet


Getting his vegetable plot ready for planting is not one of DonQui Oaty’s favourite tasks. This is especially true if he has done nothing over the winter or early spring and let the weeds and grasses take over his allotment.

Fortunately he has learned a trick. This is to leave one plot fallow for a year with an old carpet covering it. Today he takes up the carpet he put down last year, exposing a weed-free plot. He moves it over to the next weed infested plot where he grew his beans last year. There it will remain and the weeds will bother him no more.


The newly covered plot on the left of the photo will remain that way until spring next year – weed and hassle free!  The newly uncovered one on the right will be home to this years’ crop of beans


Bags of Beans

Those of you who have been following DonQui’s adventures will know that he has been away from the home paddock quite a bit over the past few months. Home again now, he trots up to the allotment to see how things are doing. One of the problems with going away in the Spring or Summer months is that when he comes back he often finds the allotment overgrown with weeds and that he has missed some of his favourite produce.

beans allot general

Not so this year. He spaced his trips away to leave short weeding and harvesting gaps in between. He got the best of the soft fruits earlier in the summer.

beans soft fruit

Now that the strawberries and raspberries are over but the blackberries and blueberries are just starting to come into their own.

beans allotment

Beans are some of DonQui’s favourite vegetables and they do consistently well on his little plot. Earlier in the year he had some trouble with aphids on the broad beans. A tip from a veteran gardener helped DonQui to deal with them. Snip off the tips of the bean stalks and spray the little blighters with a highly diluted washing up liquid. This sorted them out and they never returned.

beans broad

After a very good harvest the broad beans are now finished and the dwarf French beans are producing a bumper crop. DonQui planted several varieties and he is glad that he did as it spreads out the production. Some of the later ones are not quite ready yet while others are more than ready for harvest.

beans 1

DonQui likes his beans young and thin. So he does not like to delay harvesting them. This means, inevitably he ends up with far more than he can eat in one go. Fortunately beans freeze very well so this is what DonQui does, getting on with the job while the beans are freshly picked.

First he sorts them into two-portion piles of roughly equally thick beans.

Then he blanches them in boiling water. Just 45-60 seconds for the thin ones and around 2 mins for the thicker ones.

beans drain


Next, he drains them and plunges them into cold water. Iced water would be even better but DonQui does not have any ice to hand. This stops them from continuing cooking.

beans dry

He lays the drained beans on paper towels to dry, then puts them into freezer bags and into the freezer.

beans bag

They will be good right through the winter and into next Spring. When cooking the frozen beans he simply thaws them out then swishes them around with butter in a pan. This seems to be all they need and they are quite delicious.

beans lastHaving dealt with one huge pile of beans he goes back up to the allotment a few days later and this  is what he comes back with. The runner beans are starting to produce as are the purple French beans. The purple beans turn green when cooked and taste no different from the green ones.

Gooseberry Crumble

Returning from his travels in Spain, Italy and Tanzania, DonQui finds his allotment burgeoning with all sorts of delectable fruits and vegetables.


strawberry cropThe beans and kale are coming along nicely while the soft fruits are better than ever. Before he went away the strawberries produced an excellent crop. Now it is the time for the gooseberries and raspberries.


DonQui likes gooseberries – or ‘goosegogs‘ as his Mum used to call them. They bring coltish memories. As they are not often found in the shops these days he is happy to find a good crop waiting for him. A bit that on their own, gooseberries require a bit of cooking and added sugar to bring out their full potential so DonQui decided that a gooseberry crumble is in order.


To balance their tartness, DonQui decides to add some apple to the mix.

In the past whenever DonQui has made crumble the topping has tended to be rather soft and insipid. This time he takes a different approach and it works brilliantly, giving a nice crispy top to the fruit mixture.

Here is DonQui’s recipe. He apologises in advance for his vagueness on measurements but that is how he is. DonQui experiments and judges according to feel which makes it difficult to translate into a fail-safe recipe:

For the topping

a good slab of unsalted butter
a nice dollop of golden syrup (maple syrup would be a more expensive but excellent substitute)
about a table spoon of demerara sugar
a good scoop of jumbo oats
an equal sized scoop of plain flour
a sprinkling of chopped hazelnuts


Heat oven to 140C. Melt the syrup and butter together in a small saucepan.


Mix the dry ingredients into the melted butter mixture (away from the heat) and stir through well. You should be looking for a moderately dry crumbly constituency. If too wet add some more oats and flour

crumble mix

Spread the mixture over a baking sheet and cook for 5 mins at 140º until it starts to go golden, then mix about, turning it over, and cook for about 5 mins more until it starts to go crisp but not burning.

crumble baked

The crumble mix can be kept in the fridge for several days. The amount that DonQui made was good for two crumbles, the second one he made the following day using the left over topping mix. By the way this mix makes a rather delicious snack on its own.

For the fruit mixture
1 eating apple (don’t use a cooking apple as the whole point is to reduce the tartness)
lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice
a couple of tablespoons of golden caster sugar according to taste
A nice pile of gooseberries. You can add other soft fruits such as raspberries and currents to go along with the gooseberries. DonQui added a handful of raspberries and a couple of blackcurrants.
a teaspoon of arrowroot mixed with water

applePeel, core and chop the apples – throw them into a saucepan with a squeeze of lemon juice to stop them browning. Stir in the sugar and cook gently, covered, until the apple begins to soften.

Top and tail the gooseberries and add to the apple along with the lemon zest and any other soft fruits. Cook covered for 2-3 mins until they too begin to soften and leach juices but not to the point that they burst. Stir in the arrowroot and remove from the heat as soon as it begins to thicken. The fruit mixture can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days or it can be frozen for much later use.
crumble done

Tip the fruit into a baking dish and scatter the crumble mix on top. Bake for 10 mins until piping hot through. Serve with buckets of custard!

raspberrie crumble

The following day DonQui enhanced the leftovers with some raspberries for a second go at it.



The Earth’s Bounty

It would be no exaggeration to say that DonQui has been feeling utterly depressed and dejected since the results of the UK’s referendum to leave the EU. He knows he must pick himself up, dust himself off and get on with the business of living in the present even if he worries for the future.

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The earth carries on producing without regard to politics so DonQui goes up to the allotment to do a bit of weeding to get his mind off the referendum and to sort things out after his week away in Spain.


He is amazed at the progress. The curly kale is ready for cropping and the strawberries are producing more fruit than ever before.

strawberry crop

DonQui only picks the ripest strawberries but the crop is overwhelming. There are as many or more which will be just as fully ripe tomorrow and the day after.

After a week in central Spain, about as far as it is possible to be away from the sea in that country, DonQui feels like having some fish for dinner. He also wants to use some of his maturing kale and decides that Salmon would go best.


He is rather proud of the result — Salmon baked with tarragon from the allotment (the tarragon that is, not the salmon) lemon, olive oil and white wine. This was simply put in the oven at 180º, covered with tin foil and baked for 20 minutes. The kale from his allotment was boiled for about 4 minutes and then drained and stirred with butter. Being young and tender the leaves did not need more than this. Later in the year the kale will need cooking longer. Other accompaniments were cherry tomatoes (also baked in the oven) and fine green beens.

strawberry desert

As for the strawberries they were for desert with lashings of cream and DonQui will have some of the rest for breakfast.

The English soil is still producing excellent results even if the electorate are not.

Food and Farming

So… DonQui is in a bit of an agricultural mood at the moment. Having whipped his allotment into shape he is in need of a few more things to plant. He is thinking of beans – they always seem to do well and the surplus can be easily frozen. A few more herbs might be in order too. He already has thyme, oregano, tarragon, parsley, coriander and chives but some basil would be nice and Duchess has her heart set on some mint. The latter is a problem since mint runs roots all over the place and could soon take over everything. Never mind, he will deal with that in due course. In the meantime he needs to decide where to go to pick up some more plants.

What’s this?

Darsham Nursuries

According to The Guardian newspaper the Darsham Nurseries,  just down the road, is on the list of the 100 best places to eat in England.

A nursery café one of the best places to eat in England? Normally all DonQui might expect in such a place is a stale piece of cake and some instant coffee – not for him!

Yet this information comes from a most trusted source so he decides to give it a try. After all he does need to buy some plants.

And what a delightful surprise it is!


Duchess is delighted with her ‘English Garden’ cocktail. Such things are not to DonQui’s taste but he can appreciate the fresh minty aroma while he sips on a good glass of Beaujolais.


The menu offers a tapas-style selection of modern European sharing plates in larger than expected portions.


DonQui particularly enjoys the seasonal grilled local asparagus with romesco and almonds. Romesco is a Catalan pepper based sauce from Tarragona and although DonQui did not sample this when he was in Tarragona he finds it quite delicious. The locally sourced  Blythburgh pork chop with apricots was simply divine although DonQui struggles to see it as a ‘small dish.’


Duchess’ favorite was the ‘garden greens’ (Swiss chard) with burnt lemon and goat’s cheese curd. It was slightly better presented that the picture above indicates but by the time DonQui got around to taking it Duchess had already tucked in!

One side dish DonQui had to order was radishes with butter and salt – a very simple French classic. As a very young colt DonQui remembers his grandfather raving about radis au beurre. He had fought at the Battle of the Somme in the First World War and radis au beurre was something he had acquired a taste for in the cafés behind the lines when he was away from the action. He even insisted that the French word for butter was aubeurre and no amount of DonQui’s primary school knowledge could convince him that the ‘au’ was not an integral part of the word. “I was in France and I know,” was his emphatic reply and that was that.

The meal was utterly delicious, finished off with a heavenly concoction of creamy cheese over fine phyllo pastry with honey and nuts. It was billed as a ‘cheese cake’ but the name did not do it justice. DonQui is not a great fan of traditional cheese cake and this was anything but.


And yes DonQui did pick up some mint which is now awaiting re-planting. The nursery did not have any beans but in light of the most delicious lunch he really does not mind.


Working the Fields

On a nice warm sunny day DonQui finds rousing himself to do any work on his allotment quite difficult.


He would much rather put his hooves up and soak up some rays by the beach. Then again when it is wet, cold and miserable outside, DonQui is even less likely to go out to work in the fields. It is a wonder that anything actually gets done at all.


Somehow DonQui manages to put thoughts of the beach behind him, picks up spade, fork, hoe and assorted other instruments of destruction, and heads off to the allotment.

strawberriesHe thinks the strawberries are coming along nicely and he looks forward to the crop. His reward is, however, not limited to thoughts of good fresh fruit and vegetables to come. There is great therapeutic satisfaction to be had digging around in the dirt.

blackbirdEspecially when a fearless, friendly blackbird comes along to help and steal a few worms.





Strawberries in October?

…And we are not in the southern hemisphere.


DonQui had seen the new crop ripening on the allotment a few days back but he was quite surprised to see so many now ready for eating. Not being an expert gardener he is not sure how often strawberries have a second crop in autumn but they were rather delicious and there are many more on the way.

Spicy Beans and Tomatoes

One of the first things DonQui did when he got home was to check on the state of his allotment.

Now one of the problems of going away on holiday when you grow your own vegetables is that when you come back you find everything choked with weeds.


This time, however, things seemed in pretty good shape. The beans were still going strong, there were tomatoes nicely ripening along with kale, chard, carrots and onions. And the weeds had not taken over entirely. There were even a second crop of strawberries coming on. Perhaps they thought it was spring again!

So DonQui decided to treat himself to a little homecoming meal of spicy beans and tomatoes from his own produce.

beans and tomatoes

Here is the recipe. You will note that DonQui is not great on measurement as he tends to do things by feel and approximation.

Green beans topped, tailed and cut into small segments. Fine french beans are best but as DonQui had lots of runner beans he used them instead in this case.
Cherry tomatoes cut in half
A couple of spring onions finely sliced.
A handful of super fine soup noodles (optional)
Coconut oil (or you can use other cooking oil)
1 teaspoon cumin seed
Approximately 1 cm of ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/8-1/2 teaspoon hot chilli powder (depending on your heat tolerance, DonQui likes things fairly hot)
1 teaspoon garam marsala
1 small tin coconut cream (160ml)

Step 1. Boil the beans, 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Step 2. Gently fry the onion in the coconut oil until it begins to colour then add cumin seeds, and stir fry for about a minute until the cumin seeds begin to pop. Add the ginger and remaining spices, stir fry for a a few seconds until the spices begin to release their aroma.
Step 3. Add the drained beans, stir fry for a couple of minutes then add the tomato halves and continue to stir fry for a minute or so until they begin to soften but not so long that they fall apart.

Up to this point you can prepare in advance and leave to finish off later.

Step 4. Add the coconut cream, bring to the boil and stir until well mixed. If you are using the noodles then add them to the pan. Then let simmer gently for a couple of minutes with a lid on the pan so that the liquid does not all evaporate. When everything is warmed up then serve. If you do not use the noodles then serve with rice.