Wild Duck with Root Vegetable Purée, Walnuts, Celery and Grapes

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You can use any type of wild duck – mallard, widgeon or teal, although as teal are smaller you would need two per person. I normally use mallard and I find that because of their diet the skin can have a quite fishy taste, so I remove it before serving.

Ingredients

  • 4 whole wild ducks
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Sprig of thyme
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1 large glass of brandy or Armagnac
  • 1 large glass of port or full-bodied red wine
  • 1 teaspoon redcurrant jelly or honey

For the Root Vegetable Purée

  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces, trimmings reserved
  • 1 small swede, peeled and cut into small pieces, trimmings reserved
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 80 g butter

For the Walnuts, Celery and Grapes

  • 1 small bunch of celery
  • Splash of olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 handfuls of fresh wet walnuts, shelled and peeled
  • ½ bunch of black Muscat grapes

Method

Ask your butcher to remove the legs and rear part of the back from the ducks, reserving the breasts on the crown for roasting. Get him to leave the legs intact but chop the back into smallish pieces for the stock/sauce needed to start this recipe.

Colour the legs and chopped pieces of back in the vegetable oil in a heavy-based pan. Add the garlic, bay, thyme, vegetable trimmings and peppercorns, and continue to colour until all are nicely browned. Add the brandy, bring to the boil, then add the port or red wine and bring back to the boil. Add the redcurrant jelly, cover with water and bring to the boil yet again. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Skim and simmer until the leg meat can easily be pulled from the bone, about 1 hour.

Take the legs out, pull the meat away from the bones and reserve, discarding the bones. Strain the remaining stock/sauce, forcing as much through as possible. Reserve. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4.

To make the root vegetable purée, put the carrot and swede pieces in a pan, add the garlic, a knob of butter and a little salt, then barely cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer until tender. Liquidize in a food processor until smooth. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary.

To prepare the celery: cut away the stems so that you have just the stalks. Peel off the tough strings and discard. Cut the stalks into 7.5cm lengths and lightly colour in another knob of the butter. Add 200 ml of your duck sauce plus 100 ml water, season and cook until the celery is tender. Drain, reserving the juice, then add it to the rest of your duck sauce. Warm the walnuts and grapes in the sauce.

To a large pan or roasting tray, add a splash of olive or vegetable oil and lightly colour the ducks all over in it. Place in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes. The ducks do not take long to cook and should ideally be served pink, or the meat will be tough and dry.

Remove from the oven and let rest for about 8 minutes. Take off the breasts and remove the skin if you wish (see above). Carve the breast meat and serve with the root vegetable purée, celery and the sauce with the walnuts and grapes.

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