I was super excited for today as I knew we would be cooking duck. I absolutely love duck! Butchering the ducks was a good opportunity to review our poultry butchering skills and fortunately I hadn’t forgotten quite as much from our chicken butchery session as I was worried I had. We pan-fried the duck breasts and then finished them off in the oven, coated in honey and Szechwan pepper. We then sliced the breasts and added them to a salad of shredded mangetout and mixed leaves, tossed in a honey, soy and ginger dressing. The duck was beautifully tender and wonderfully ‘ducky’ flavoured, with the sweet/sour dressing cutting through the richness of the meat.
The duck legs were placed in a marinade and will be used for confit duck later in the week. We also looked at removing the loins from a saddle of venison and trimming it of its large coating of sinew. The venison will be marinated and roasted tomorrow and served with the potato dauphinoise we also prepared this morning, before moving on to making vanilla crème patisserie to go in our fruit tarts for tonight’s dessert.
The afternoon was geared towards preparing the evening meal (although I suppose I should really say afternoon meal, as it normally gets eaten between half four and five). Typically, on possibly the warmest and driest day since I’ve been on the course, we were making beef suet puddings, which, for me at least, can only really hold appeal on a bitterly cold day, after a very, very long walk, when you are starving hungry and desperate for something warm and super filling. So my suet pudding didn’t do a huge deal for me this afternoon, although it was still interesting to work with suet pastry, and the beef and mushroom filling had great flavour, with the meat being wonderfully tender…I’m afraid I’m going to say it again…I think starting with a good, home made stock really made all the difference. So will I start boiling chicken carcasses and beef bones at the weekends?….maybe…we’ll have to see.
To go along side the suet pudding, we made beetroot and parsnip purées, which I’m not sure I’d really have thought worth making, but doing it today I’ve realised it’s not a huge deal of extra work, and I think they would make a really nice touch to dinner party meals (once I’ve improved my ‘smearing’ technique!). Possibly my favourite element of the dish, however, was the garnish! Parsnip crisps! At this rate I don’t think it will be long before I start looking into how much a deep fat fryer is going to set me back. Never, ever did I think I would want a deep fat fryer. But plaice goujons, chunky, golden, triple cooked chips and parsnip crisps are slowly converting me!
After our heavy main meal, none of us had all that much room for dessert despite it’s eye appeal. Nevertheless, we were all extremely keen to take the left-overs home for later.
Pastry cases, coated with chocolate, filled with crème patisserie and topped simply with raspberries, glazed with apricot jam and drizzled with chocolate. They looked just like those glistening fruit tarts that sit temptingly in bakery windows. I felt really impressed I’d made one myself, and also a little smug knowing it looks an awful lot harder to pull off than it really is. It’s one of those things that, with a little bit of work ahead of time, is very simple bring together, while leaving everyone thinking you’ve produced the incredible. As Thomas from the group pointed out, being able to whip up a batch of these tarts is a skill with considerable pulling power!