Gressingham duck with blackcurrant and cassis sauce

A Gressingham duck is rather like a Hoover. By that I mean a it’s a brand name that has become a noun. Tim and I were wondering about this the other day – whether Gressingham was a breed, or a brand name. Or a place of origin.  It turns out it’s all three. Gressingham duck is a wild mallard crossed with Pekin duck – known as a Long Island duck in the USA. There’s a lot of breast meat on it, and it’s know for its gamey flavour. It was bred in Gressingham, Lancashire by the Buchanen family, who later bought exclusive rights to breed the ducks, hence it becoming a brand name.

I was wondering about ducks and what they eat, when walking in the park. The ducks in the park here are also like a Hoover – for different reasons. They hoover up a lot of rubbish factory-produced bread that’s thrown to them. It can’t be good for them to eat stuff that’s so so nutritionless. I was chuckling at the thought that the ducks and swans on the river at Richmond where we used to walk probably live on discarded Poilane bread.

Duck with blackcurrant and cassis sauce

Gressingham duck with blackcurrant and cassis

I’ve fed the ducks and Canada geese here a few times with some sourdough, but having looked on the intertubes just now, it seems feeding them any kind of bread isn’t really a good idea, and not necessary for their survival – even in the coldest weather. If you’re going to feed ducks for the fun of it – and it is nice seeing them waddling up to see what’s in the bag, seeds would be better for them.

I love the colours of this dish, how the the blackcurrant and cassis sauce bleeds into the whiteness of the celeriac mash. I like the way the duck skin catches a little, offset by the softness of the mash.

This is an adaption of a recipe from ‘Ripailles’ by Stephane Reynaud.

Ingredients

2 Gressingham duck breasts

Blackcurrants 150g

1 whole celeriac, chopped into 1 inch cubes

110 g butter – 40g for the blackcurrant sauce, 70g for the celeriac.

120 ml Creme de cassis

300 ml red wine

2 shallots, finely chopped

1/2 a lemon for juice

Salt & black pepper

Make the sauce first. In a hot pan, pour in the red wine and reduce by half. Add the finely chopped shallots. Add the creme de cassis. Add the blackcurrants. Tim had some blackcurrants  in the freezer from a foraging day, he put them in frozen. Reduce down to a syrupy consistency. The blackcurrants will break down a bit, but you’re not looking for a completely smooth texture – in this case lumpy is good. Add the 40g butter. Check the seasoning – add a touch of salt. Put aside and turn to the celeriac.

How to make the blackcurrant and cassis sauce

Blackcurrant sauce

Put the diced celeriac into a large pan of cold water, and squeeze in the lemon juice. Tim’s note: anything grown below the ground (root veg) start in cold water. Anything grown above the ground, drop into hot water. It will take approximately 15 minutes to cook – test with a knife – it should be completely soft. Drain and put aside, keep warm.

With a very sharp knife score the skin of the duck breast in a criss cross pattern – don’t go into the flesh. Season the duck breast on both sides. Place in a hot pan, skin side down, no oil needed. Render the fat (melt down) on a low to medium heat, for 10 minutes. Turn over and cook for another 5 minutes. Rest the duck for 10 minutes before plating up. During this time, go back to the celeriac – mash and add the butter, season.

Panfry the duck

Panfry the duck

Slice the breast into 5 or 6 sections, lay out the celeriac and place the duck on it, then spoon over the blackcurrant sauce.

Duck with blackcurrant and cassis sauce

Panfried duck with blackcurrant and cassis

None of these ducks were harmed in the making of this dish

None of these ducks were harmed in the making of this dish.

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Scary looking fish in scary sauce. Ling in a spring nettle sauce.

Well, looks aren't everything.

As far as fish go, Ling isn’t much of a looker. A member of the cod family, it has a massive head and long, tapered body, with marbled brown and white skin markings and a silver underside. If this fish was on a double date with its cousin the cod, it would be the gormless one with the too short trousers, and teeth braces. A kind of Ugly Betty of the sea. Or Plug, from the Beano (more my era). But the meat is lovely – large meaty flakes, and sweet flavour.

Ling on the fish counter.

Ling is a fish at risk from over fishing, so do try to find certified sustainable sources. Pollack or coley is a sustainable alternative. This ling came from a fishmonger in Devon, who’s joined HFW’s ‘Fish fight.’ The fishmonger said this is quite a small ling, they can be enormous – up to 2 meters long.

Stinging nettles are the highest plant source of iron, and are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and protein. The nettles’ stinging ability disappears when the nettles are cooked.

My childhood horror - stinging nettles.

Blanched nettles.

Ingredients:

2 thick fillets of ling, about 200g each

For the sauce:

1 large tomato

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tablespoon of capers

1 onion

A couple of tablespoons of olive oil

50g butter

A handful (a gloved handful!) of nettles

Skin and pin bone the fish. Season the ling fillets with salt and pepper.

Blanch the nettles for 40 seconds, by pouring boiling water over them in a pan. Combine the drained nettles, garlic, onions, capers in a hand blender jug and whizz into a kind of nettle pesto. Take out and reserve a couple of tablespoons. Add the tomatoes and olive oil and whisk by hand to amalgamate the sauce, and simmer for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, heat the oil and butter in a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the ling fillets. Cook for three to four minutes then turn the fillets and fry for a couple of minutes until the fish is just cooked through. To serve, place the sauce onto a plate, place the fish on top and spoon over some of the reserved nettle ‘pesto’. Serve with some proper bread.

Ling in spring nettle sauce.

Big meaty flakes of fish.

Foraging: Wild Garlic

Tim was on the foraging trail early in life. He’d be rooting around for free food regularly in Cyprus – when he wasn’t fishing, or tearing up the mountain on his motorbike – winding up the locals and the police. Today we did our first foraging walk together in Devon, looking for the wild garlic that’s just in season now. I imagined it would involve poking around hedgerows, hoping to find the odd bit. So walking from Totnes to the Sharpham Estate, and later on to Dartington, I was a little surprised to find this:

Wild garlic in Devon.

Not so much nature’s store cupboard as nature’s hypermarket. Wild garlic is also known as Ramsoms. Its Latin name Allium Ursinum comes from the brown bears’ fondness for these fleshy leaves. Wild boar love it, too. And, apparently the cow’s at Sharpham, in Devon, too. From what I remember, either from our cheese diplomas, or the very knowledgeable Oliver at the Fine Cheese Company, the Sharpham Jersey cows had tainted their milk by chomping at these wonderful leaves. So the cheesemakers decided to make a garlicky cheese variation. Hence Sharpham Garlic and Herbs. Ramsoms could be mistaken for Lily of the Valley or Autumn Crocus, both are potentially poisonous. So, if the smell wafting up from the stuff hasn’t already told you it’s wild garlic, do check by rubbing a leaf between your fingers. Its smell is unmistakable. And, like anything else foraged, make sure you’re not picking from where dogs cock their legs. And try to avoid polluted roadside verges – or at least wash the leaves thoroughly.

Wild garlic

Juice the lemons

Homemade wild garlic lemonade This is a quick and simple, very refreshing soft drink. The juice of 3 lemons A table and a half of sugar 6 wild garlic leaves 1 litre sparkling water Squeeze the lemons, and reduce on a low heat for about 15 minutes with the sugar to make a concentrated cordial. Allow to cool. Bruise the leaves a little to release more flavour and aroma, Add to a jug with ice. Then pour in the sparkling water and stir.

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Wild Garlic lemonade.

Wild Garlic Pesto

Wild Garlic Pesto Recipe

Wild Garlic Pesto