A visit by the parents for Sunday lunch is a potentially daunting experience. Especially if you have grown up with consistently delicious Sunday lunches produced in a seemingly effortless manner. So when the folks arrived for a weekend with their London-based sprogs, and treated us to a West End show, I knew I had to impress.
Error number one was assuming they would be late, and that I'd have time to nip to the butchers, before they arrived on Saturday. When the Ellis' broke with tradition and arrived on time, I was taken a back. Therefore I resorted to popping to the Co-op on Sunday morning to find, to my horror, that they'd run out of free range chickens. I threw caution to the wind and bought a freedom-food endorsed duck. Never cooked it before, and a wee bit pricey, so the pressure was on.
I discovered to my delight that a duck is such a fatty little blighter that you barely need to do anything to prepare it for a roasting. Just rub on a bit of salt, prick the skin to allow the fat to drain off, and ensure it is raised (either on a wrack or on top of some crumpled silver foil in a roasting tin) so that the fat can drip down.
It was a relatively quick roast** but still allowed time for the obligatory Ellis Family Run around Dulwich Park while it was cooking (we're not eccentric, we're just strange, as my Granny always used to say). About 3 times during the cooking you can drain the fat away and pour it over the roast potatoes - it makes the most deliciously crispy golden roasties in the world. I put the potatoes in the oven at the same time as the bird, so that had time to cook nice and slowly. I put a wee bit of oil on to start with, but then added the duck fat once the bird started cooking.
The other joy of this duck purchase was that it included giblets - wonderfully underrated organs that make the most delicious gravy. Just bring to the boil in some water with a carrot, an onion, black peppercorns and a bay leaf and simmer for at least an hour and a half. Then pour thorough a sieve into another pan and use as the basis for your gravy. I just added some duck fat, fried up some more carrot and onion and then liquidised.
Finally, I knew that duck works well with plum. We happened to have two rogue plums in the cupboard. We had also just bought some delicious English russet apples. So I peeled and chopped the fruit, and brought to the boil with a bit of water (approx 200ml), a splash of cider vinegar, a cinnamon stick, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves and 1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger. I kept the plum stones in as I knew from my jam making experience that this would help it thicken and set. I simmered it for about 15-20 minutes until gorgeously sticky. I was especially pleased with this creation as I usually rely on recipe books. I decided that this concoction was probably a confit, although I realise this probably just means that I have been watching too much Masterchef.
I served the juicy duck with the crunchy potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli, the creamy gravy and sweet confit.
Empty plates all round, and a nod of approval from the Mother. Phew
*I have clearly been watching too much Masterchef
** Preheat the oven to 230C, cooking time is 1hour 50 mins for a 1.8kg duck. Leave to stand for 20 mins before carving.