Roast Duck with Potato and Fennel Stuffing
I’m chatting on the phone on a dreary January day; the signal is so bad in my house that hail, rain or shine I’m forced outside to take a call. “I do the free-range ducks now too”. I’d been onto Billy at Feighcullen Farm to supply me with free range chickens for the deli and although I wasn’t in the deli long enough to set everything up, I was delighted to hear of this new development. I’ve been buying Billy’s free range chickens from Robbie’s Butchers in Newbridge for some time now. I ask Robbie to order a duck for me – its wonderful rich flavour is a far cry from the bland offerings of the mass produced alternative and it’s surprisingly affordable too.
We really need to do more to support local suppliers. Kildare may not be the foodie capital of Ireland but we have some wonderful artisans and producers doing trojan work. The large supermarkets may be a more convenient way to shop but they rarely stock local produce. It’s tough to be creative in cooking when you have the same ingredients all the time, when your vegetables are flown half way across the world and have lost most of their flavour and nutrition in the process. There is something very special about a homemade jam, a lovingly baked loaf of sourdough, perfectly roasted coffee and vegetables just picked that morning. There is also great peace of mind in knowing that the animal you are eating has led a good life, been allowed to do the things that come naturally to it and been generally well cared for. You can also be happy in the knowledge that you are helping your local economy and keeping good farmers and great butchers in business.
Duck has a bit of a reputation for being mean, it doesn’t contain quite as much meat as a similar sized chicken but the meat is much richer and so less is required. There is also one great advantage to duck – you get to jar up the fat and keep it for roast potatoes in the coming weeks!
1 Free Range Duck
500 g Potatoes (peeled and cut into 1 cm cubes)
1 tsp Fennel Seeds
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Chicken or Duck Stock
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Peeled Potatoes for Roasties (optional)
Mix the cubed potatoes, fennel and oil. Season and bake in a 170 degree oven for ten minutes. Allow to cool. (If you are going to cook the duck straight away, you can stuff it immediately but if preparing in advance, then let the potato cool).
Score the top of the duck with a sharp knife and remove any excess fat in the cavity. Season the cavity well and stuff with the potato mixture. Season the top of the duck and place on a baking tray. Cook in a 170 degree oven for 2 hours, basting every 45 minutes.
If you want roast potatoes, add them to the tray after an hour. Baste them with the pan fat before putting back into the oven for the second hour.
At the end of the cooking time, remove the duck and potatoes to a second tray and allow to rest. Pour all of the fat and juices from the cooking tray into a jug and put into the fridge for the fat to separate.
After 20-30 minutes, spoon off the fat and add the duck juices to a saucepan with some stock (amount depends on how much gravy you want). Allow to simmer for a few minutes to reduce and season well. You can thicken with some flour or a roux if you wish but I don’t think it’s necessary.
Carve the duck and serve with the stuffing, roast potatoes and vegetables of your choice.