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.

mallardusfwerwinandpeggybauer.jpg

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.jpg

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
Salt
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

Method
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.

raw veg.jpg

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.

pre-roast veg.jpg

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.

brown in pan.jpg

 

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.

finished 2.jpg

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.

plated.jpg

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.

 

The Food of Kings

Beasts of field, stream and forest are going into hiding. It is game season and DonQui is in a particular carnivorous mood.

With a herd of visitors on their way, DonQui decides that a haunch of venison is in order. There are few meats he enjoys more than this food of Kings — except perhaps for wild boar. Good wild boar is almost impossible to find in England. What is sold as such is cross-bread with domestic pigs, or farmed, or both. So venison it is.

1460978_718114018198994_959428340_n.jpg

The friendly butchers at Mills and Sons (and daughters) in Southwold, have prepared a particularly excellent 1.7kg joint for him. It is from a wild Red Deer hind which had been happily running around the local fields not very long ago. It has been hung, tied and larded with fat to gently baste the meat as it cooks. Proper wild game has virtually no fat, this is one reason why it is such a health source of protein. A bit of larding (added fat) on the outside really helps the cooking process and stops the outside from drying out. Some vegetables from the local farm shop will be added to the feast.

larding

Aiding him in his quest to produce the perfect roast venison is Nichola Fletcher’s most helpful Ultimate Venison Cookery book. She advises roasting times based on the width of the joint rather than overall weight. This makes sense to DonQui as, after all, a long thin piece of meat might weigh more than a short fat one but is likely to cook more quickly.

The trick is to roast quickly at high temperature followed by a very long resting time. When resting the joint will continue to cook slowly — the result being something that is evenly pink and tender. As it has no fat, roast venison will dry out, becoming dry, tough and tasteless if it is cooked more than ‘medium rare.’

brown

DonQui rubs the outside with a mix of salt and pepper then browns the haunch on all sides in oil and butter at high heat. This gives the outside nice colour and flavour. If you do not do this beforehand the outside can tend to look a little greyish.

Then he pops it in a pre-heated oven at 200º C for 40 minutes. This is based on Nichola Fletcher’s advice of 3 minutes per centimetre of width. DonQui’s haunch is 14cm thick at the widest point so 40 mins seems about right. Then he takes it out of the oven, covers it loosely in tinfoil, and leaves the meat to rest for another 40 minutes while he gets on with the roast potatoes and finishing off the gravy.

resting

The lovely juices which collect in the pan during the resting process are added to the gravy. This DonQui makes from a variation of his usual rich meat sauce with the addition of 12 crushed juniper berries, mushroom stalks, thyme, rosemary, garlic, tomato paste and red current jelly. This time he does not make a roux, as through reduction it seems thick enough. This is rather fortuitous as, unbeknownst to him at the time, one of his guests likes to avoid gluten.

roastOvercooking roast venison will toughen it and leave you with nothing better than old shoe leather. The meat should be a lovely even pink throughout — DonQui is delighted to see that this is indeed the case.

carved

As he carves, he can tell that it is also beautifully tender. He has heard that some people do not like rare meat. If that is the case then they should not try roasting a haunch. Far better in that case to slow cook diced venison in a wine-based stew until the meat falls apart.

final

DonQui serves his venison carved on a platter with some of the gravy poured on top with the addition of fried mushrooms along with a scattering of chopped parsley and thyme.

Guinea Fowl Supremes

Looking for something interesting for dinner, DonQui rummages around the corners of his freezer. There, underneath some frozen beans, he finds a pair of guinea fowl supremes which he picked up from the wonderful Wild Meat Company at the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival last September.

Thinking that these will do the trick DonQui pulls them out to thaw and then looks around for advice on how to cook them.

guinea-fowl.jpg

Guinea fowl is a lot like chicken. It has a relatively delicate white meat without any of the gaminess of pheasant, partridge or grouse. DonQui has roasted a whole guinea fowl before but not supremes.

g-f supremes.jpg

The supreme is the breast of the bird off the bone but with the first wing joint still attached and the skin on. Mr Google advised first frying and then finishing off in the oven. This is what DonQui decides to do and he is delighted with the result.

This is his recipe:

Preheat the oven to 200º

onion fry.jpg

Lightly brown a very finely sliced onion or a couple of shallots then put them into a roasting tray with a good splash of white wine.

Make sure the supremes are completely dry (this will ensure a nice caramelised outside), season with salt and pepper and then fry skin side down in the same pan. Fry gently for about 3 or 4 minutes until nice and golden brown then turn over and seal the other side.

Swish out the pan with white wine and add to a gravy base (see DonQui’s earlier post: Rich Meat Sauce)

roast tray.jpg

Turn down the oven to 160º, place the supremes skin side up in the roasting tray on top of the shallots, sprinkle with rosemary (or you can also use tarragon for a slightly different flavour). Cook uncovered for about 12 minutes.

g-f roasted.jpg

Let rest for 4-5 minutes while you finish off the vegetables. Pour off the juices into the gravy.

guinea foul finished.jpg

DonQui served his with curly kale, roast carrots, wild rice and parmentier potatoes (roast potato cubes); gravy and homemade cranberry sauce (very easy to make and may be the subject of a future post).

moulin a vent.jpg

DonQui recommends a light red wine to go with it. This Moulin-à-Vent was just about perfect.

The Sail Loft Southwold

Duchess has a surprise for DonQui. It involves food and drink as she knows what he likes. It also appears to be something new, something DonQui has not yet tried.

Now DonQui is firmly of the option that the food in Suffolk is amongst the best to be had in England. Fresh and locally sourced, it may not have the international variety one can find in London but the quality and value for money are simply outstanding.

Being the sort of animal who constantly seeks out all the best pastures, DonQui had assumed that he had sampled all there was to be had close to his home paddock. Imagine his surprise, therefore,when Duchess leads him to a new place just beyond the sand dunes of the Southwold beach.

Sail Loft Southwold

Sail Loft in Southwold opened a few months ago, after renovating an old Italian restaurant that had been closed for years. DonQui’s initial impression is very positive.

Yes it had an inevitable nautical look but it was done in a very tasteful way without any fishing nets, faux pirate junk, nor any other kind of tourist tat. Instead there was lots of distressed, reclaimed wood which gave a modern and comfortably casual up-market atmosphere.

IMG_5534a

DonQui’s mane stood up in delight when he saw the rather good wines and the seasonal specials on offer.

Sail Loft menu

Despite the nautical name this was not the sort of place for sea-side holiday fish and chips!

crispy beef

A plate of crispy salt and pepper beef with carrot, radish and coriander serves as a shared starter. It is out of the ordinary and very tasty indeed. More than enough for two to share, it serves admirably to keep the wolf away while waiting for the main course and sipping on a most excellent Argentinian Malbec. The wine is a bit on the expensive side for Suffolk (although it would be a bargain in London) and DonQui appreciates the option of a glass, a carafe or a bottle.

partridge

The main courses are roast partridge with root vegetables and a blueberry sauce, for DonQui; slow cooked Blythburgh pork belly with red cabbage, roast potatoes and cider gravy for Duchess. Both are exquisite. Autumn is game season and DonQui can rarely resist a game option when it is on the menu. Some game birds can, however, be a bit on the tough side. This one however is succulent and perfectly cooked. The sweetness of the blueberries in the sauce is a perfect counter-point to the full flavour of the game bird.

Dingley-Dell-Pig-Art-006

Blythburgh pork, from just across the river from Southwold is becoming increasingly sought after and DonQui has seen it on menus in several London restaurants. How much better to have it close to home just a few miles from where the pigs are reared? It is ’melt in the mouth’ tender and full of delicious taste. The red cabbage, cooked with apple, is a perfect compliment. DonQui’s only criticism is that by serving the pork belly on top of the red cabbage the lovely cider gravy became lost in the cabbage. The latter does not need it, while the pork is a little on the dry side without. This is fixed when the chef provides a jug of extra gravy on request.

Desert is a shared ‘autumn fruit mess’ — a seasonal variant on Eton Mess (non Brits may have to look this up). Figs, apples and blackberries are the fruit and they worked brilliantly together with the cream and broken up meringue. DonQui tucks into it with such delight that he completely forgot about taking photos!

DonQui will most definitely be going back!