Christmas is almost upon us and it is about time when we plan our Christmas menu. I know for most people these days Christmas dinner means turkey. However in our home we love duck in winter. It has a wonderful, rich gamey flavour and when roasted it smells like the most amazing winter dish. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with turkey. It is perfect, especially if you have bigger family to feed. We often have it on Christmas day when we visit in laws for example. But just for two of us and kids one duck is just ideal. It makes Sunday roast feel that extra special during advent. Duck is traditionally accompanied by some form of fruit. Here I used blackcurrants. Underrated and rarely used they bring element of acidity to the dish. After harvesting them in season we keep blackcurrants in the freezer. If you find it difficult to find blackcurrants you can substitute them with blackberries. Ducks come in different shapes and sizes depending on breed, but all of them have rather high percentage of fat and bone to flesh. This means that the actual amount of meat is considerably less than with a chicken. Generally, you could say that one bird should feed a family of four.
- 1 oven prepared duck (about 2kg)
- ½ orange
- 50g blackcurrants, defrosted if frozen (you can substitute them with blackberries)
- Few sprigs of thyme
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the sauce:
- 1 heaped tsp plain flour
- 1 tblsp butter
- 300ml chicken stock
- 50ml cherry vodka or cherry liqueur
- 160g blackcurrants, defrosted if frozen (you can substitute them with blackberries)
- Juice of ½ orange
- About 2 tsp honey (subject to individual taste)
- After buying the bird remove any outer packaging and pat the skin dry with kitchen paper. Place the duck in the fridge uncovered for 24 hours before cooking. This is to get the skin dry as it helps to cook it crisp.
- Take the bird out of the fridge 1 hour before cooking to bring it to room temperature. Pre heat the oven to 220 centigrade.
- Prick the duck all over with the tip of the knife, especially the fatty parts. Rub the orange half over the skin. Cut the orange into large pieces and push them into the duck cavity, followed by the blackcurrants and thyme and a seasoning of salt and pepper. Sprinkle the skin with generously with sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper.
- Place the duck breast side up on a trivet sitting in a deep roasting tray. The bird will release a lot of fat during roasting. You can keep this to make wonderful roast potatoes.
- Roast in the middle of pre heated oven for 20 minutes then lower the heat to 190 centigrade and cook for another 80 minutes, basting every so often with the fat that renders out of the bird. At that point start testing the bird to see if it is cooked by sticking a skewer into the thickest part of the leg. If the juices run clear the duck is ready. If not return to the oven and roast for another 10 – 15 minutes, then test again.
- When the duck is cooked, transfer it into the carving tray and cover with kitchen foil to keep warm. Leave it to rest for about 20 minutes.
- Whilst the duck is roasting make the sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until starting to foam. Add the flour and mix well to make the roux. Cook, mixing constantly until the mixture turns golden.
- Gradually add the stock, stirring constantly to avoid any lumps forming.
- Add the cherry vodka and blackcurrants, bring to boil over high heat and let it bubble for about 2 minutes. Lover the heat to medium and let it simmer hard for another 8 minutes, until slightly reduced. Keep squashing the blackcurrants with the fork so that they release their juice and flavour.
- Strain the sauce through a conical sieve to a clean saucepan. Put the sauce over medium heat and let it boil for a few more minutes if want to reduce it further.
- Add the orange juice and enough honey to balance the tartness (for me it is 2 teaspoons). Keep it over very low heat and stir well to dissolve the honey. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.
- When you are ready to serve carve long, thin slices from the breast. Then remove whole legs off the carcass.
- Give each person both breast and leg meat pouring the blackcurrant sauce partly over and around it.