Strangely I am not talking about Christmas. Imagine my excitement when the dentist/ torturer (rather depends which side of the chair you are), announces, (not a moment too soon I may add), that the hideous traintracks running round my mouth are finally going to be removed. Praise the Lord. To give you some context I am extremely spoilt as up until last year my pearly whites had given me not one bit of grief. Granted, the wisdoms were removed and I looked like a hamster for a week, but with that exception I don’t even have a filling. That is until I noticed some serious subsidence and hence the braces. It is amazing what they can do now days, but pain is part of the gain, and that pain is pretty hideous I may add if: A. you love food and eating, and B. you like talking. I cannot tell you how thrilled I am at the prospect of them being removed. No doubt the waistline will expand chronically and I’ll live to regret the new freedom in my mouth, this is likely to be the best Christmas present ever.
Moving swiftly on, I promised you ‘one pot wonders’ and to date have only delivered a handful, so before this year is out please can I recommend our new family favorite ‘Duck Ragu’. This goes back to having a freezer full of game and looking for alternative ways to use it. I rather like duck, along with pigeon, hare and rabbit but Mr.P is not a fan, especially of the latter two, particularly after ‘Nibbles’ took an early departure from this world! So roast duck in its classic state is not an option, duck ragu however seems to have slid under the radar and importantly be suitably disguised as to not pull too many heart strings. The origin of the recipe is unsurprisingly from The River Cafe Pasta Book, a total gem, however the wonderful Ruth Rogers would be horrified by how I have changed it. In my defence, it is to make it more user friendly on the time poor and ‘little people’ rich families, so yes it is bastardised to suit me, but still shockingly good and appeals to young and old alike, even the pink one aged 18 months wolfs it down.
This version of ‘Duck Ragu’ is complex as it combines the classic ragu foundation bricks, celery, carrot, onions and garlic, with spices, cinnamon, star anise and chilli with the heady scent of juniper and sage. The first time I made it, it seemed to take an age, but persevere as once done the beauty of this dish is that it is a ‘one pot wonder’. As the ingredients above indicate the ragu is velvety, earthy and warming, a cracking way of cooking wild duck and a really good dinner party number if you want to concentrate on gossip as opposed to slaving in the kitchen. This was my particular scenario last tuesday when some dear friends pitched up from Bonny Scotland and I hosted an evening in their honor. I wanted something tasty, different, and critically, easy. Also, I say dinner party, that sounds way too grand, it was more just a very jolly gathering of 8 friends, certainly not high brow Michelin Star painted plate food, sadly for them, just simple seasonal fare, colorful, interesting and not altogether familiar!
2 wild Duck
2 carrots, cut into 1 cm cubes
4 sticks of celery, cut into 1 cm cubes
8 garlic cloves, 4 finely chopped and 4 peeled and left whole
2 onions, cut into fine dice
1 tablespoon of juniper berries, crushed with a pestle and mortar
1 teaspoon of chilli flakes
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick or 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
300 ml of red wine
2 bay leaves
2 x 400gms tins of chopped tomatoes
20 sage leaves
salt and pepper
3 – 4 tablespoons double cream
1. First of all put your large Le Creuset dish on a hot plate and heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic, stir frequently so the vegetables don’t burn but get a good golden color.
2. While the vegetables are cooking put a frying pan on the heat, ideally non stick, and brown the duck all over with a little olive oil added to the pan. When the duck has cooled stuff inside each cavity 10 sage leaves and the juniper berries, and 2 peeled whole garlic cloves.
3. When the vegetables have turned a good golden color, add the red wine and stir well, now add the tomatoes, chilli, star anise, cinnamon, chilli and bay. Turn off the heat and push one duck at a time into the Le Creuset dish. Stuff some tomato sauce into the cavity and make sure the 2 duck are sitting snugly, practically submerged in the tomato-vegetable sauce. Pop the lid on.
4. Put the Le Creuset into a pre heated oven 150, for 2 hours.
5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool until acceptable to handle.
6. Right this is the messy bit, strip the duck and shred the meat and set aside. Put all the tomato-vegetable sauce in a magi mix and pulse to make a thick sauce. Add the duck back into the sauce, add a good pinch of Maldon sea salt and a good twist do black pepper. When you are ready to use it stir in the cream and reheat. One pot wonder ‘duck ragu’ to feed 8. Serve with good tagliatelle or parpadelle, and plenty of freshly grated Parmesan.