Come wintry evenings and I have dreams of crispy fat: roast duck, golden belly pork and if it’s really bad – pork scratchings. Right now I am duck sitting. Except this duck is dead and I got it yesterday from my local butcher’s – Liddicoat’s (who will serve you even when the shop is nearly shut and Mr Liddicoat is on his way to his weekly karate class).
Duck sitting involves basting the bird every 20 minutes and is a role of some responsibility which I take seriously (along with the professional tasting of crispy fat as I baste). So excuse me if I interrupt this to pour boiling fat over a bird (this is middle class deep-fat frying, who are we kidding here?)
This one was hiding under some chickens and had all the right labels – organic, free range, but the one I most covet in a duck is this: With Giblets. A little bag of giblets inside is not only an indicator that the supplier is to be trusted, makes great gravy not to mention a pre-roast snack, but it feels like the butcher has given you a little present.
To make use of the giblets, I am loosely following Hugh F-W’s roast duck recipe (if you haven’t seen Tom Kerridge’s Peking Duck on Proper Pub Food then you are missing out but I am right out of Sichuan peppercorns). I say loosely because he very sensibly suggests chopping the giblets finely, boiling and then straining to make a delicious gravy stock. Being a glutton, I ah, fried the giblets whole and they were subsequently devoured whole – heart, gizzards, liver and all – by myself and F. *baste
The wing tips (good tip: cut them off, fry and use in the gravy – who eats wing tips?) and neck remain however and are gently boiling in some stock as I tap. I also slapped some red wine in to the stock when Hugh, again sensibly, suggests that wine be used to deglaze the pan once the bird has cooked.
Recently, it has been noted that I don’t follow recipes. The consequences of this have been: a very flat rubbery yoghurt cake (I ‘free-measured’, not to be advised); I ‘free-seasoned’ a sausage casserole with two huge big pinches of cayenne pepper (again not to be advised) and substituting white sugar for demerara in a batch of scones could be deemed reckless (the result was a scone avec crunchy bits).*baste
Is not following a recipe so bad? For some reason, I believe I can cook by osmosis: the theory that by simply reading a recipe you will ‘absorb’ the key points. Fact is – you can get away with it in a roast dinner as meat is forgiving and fairly intuitive but not with baking.
I also think that it is affecting my progress as a cook. I should be more disciplined, take this more seriously and get used to listening to those who know more than me. Instead I become all Guardian reader anarchic: ‘Free the people, don’t read recipes’ which is frankly absurd. *baste
So from now on, expect to see me diligently following recipes, well sort of. As for the duck, it’s time to *baste again! Serve with lots of veg, Hugh’s gravy (I added marmalade instead of redcurrant jelly – worked fine) and some Serviettenknödel (which literally translates as dishcloth dumpling). These are an Austrian specialty best made the day before and for real indulgence – fry in butter and beaten egg the next day to eat with leftovers (if there are any…).