#363 Widgeon and Teal

Yet another game recipe – I am trying to get through as many as I canbefore the end of the game season!
Widgeon

I have already cooked mallard a couple of times and happening upon some teal in the butcher allowed me to try a new type of duck, which is a very hansome little dabbling duck (I cooked widgeon for the previous post Braised Wild Duck with Apricot Stuffing). This now just leaves snipe and ptarmigan and I’ll have eaten all the legal game species in Britain.
Teal
 

As for many of the recipes in this section, Jane provides but mere guidance. Here’s the recipe as given in English Food:

Widgeon and Teal

(see Mallard)

roast: 10-25 minutes, mark 7, 220⁰C (425⁰F)

inside: liver mashed with butter, parsley and lemon

serve with: as wild duck [I assume she means mallard here]. On fried bread put under the bird at the end of roasting

The cooking time here is rather vague because of the size difference between the two types of duck.; teal is the smallest duck in Britain and widgeon is of a middling size. I roasted the teal for 15 minutes and stuffed them only with only seasoned butter. There was a thin layer of fat covering the breasts so I merely smeared them with more softened butter. Annoyingly, I forgot to fry the bread. I made a gravy from the juices by whisking a tablespoon of flour into them along with some chicken stock added in stages and a spoonful of redcurrant jelly.

#363 Widgeon and Teal. I am getting such a taste for game these days. These little teal were great – dark-fleshed but not too gamy. There is also something very satisfying about having a whole bird sat on your dinner plate; positively medieval. 8/10

#362 Braised Wild Duck with Apricot Stuffing

Gadwall ducks
This recipe requires a couple of wild ducks – any will do, Jane does not give specifics. There are only three kinds to choose from – mallard, widgeon and teal – this was not always the case, there used to be many legal game species of duck and waterfowl. The list includes shovelers, gadwalls, pintail ducks, shelducks, mergansers, swans, cygnets and moorhens. Some of those species are still shot for food in other European countries.  
Moorhen
 Iwent for widgeon, which is of a middling size with each feeding one to two people. I had never eaten widgeon before and was looking forward to it after the delicious mallard recipe I cooked last Christmas (#323 Salmi of Game). The widgeon is a relatively common duck, though being much less gregarious than the ubiquitous mallard they are easily overlooked as they hang around in the centre of the lake alone or in small flocks. If you are using the tiny teal, I would use three or maybe four for this recipe.

Widgeon

Inside the ducks there is a stuffing made with dried apricots from the Middle East. These are not the typical squidgy ones found alongside the currants and raisins in the grocers; they are tiny and whole and dried completely solid with their stones intact. They can be found in any good Asian grocer’s shop.

Once you have procured your ducks and apricots you can get going…

The night before you want to cook your duck, soak three ounces of dried apricots in water. To make the stuffing, remove the stones and roughly chop the flesh of the apricots before cracking the stones to get to the kernels*. Next finely chop enough celery stalksto yield two healthy tablespoons worth and fry it gently in two ounces of butter for about 10 minutes until almost tender. Mix the celery and butter into the apricots along with two ounces of breadcrumbs made from slightly stale bread. Season well with salt and pepper and loosely stuff two wild ducks with this mixture.

Next prepare the ducks’ cooking vessel for braising by placing half a sliced onion, half a teaspoon of thyme leaves and three stalks of celery in the bottom of a deep casserole dish. Jane is quite specific that the celery stalks must from the heart of the head of celery. Place the duck on top and pour in enough boiling water to come about half an inch up the side of the ducks. Pop the lid on and cook in a ‘slow oven’ (about 160⁰C, or 325⁰F) for about an hour. Check to see if you need to top up the water, then cook for a further 30 minutes.

When the duck is ready, remove it and place it on a warm serving plate. Strain the liquor into a saucepan and reduce it to produce a good, well-flavoured sauce. Season and thicken by mashing together a tablespoon of flour with an ounce of butter. Whisk in small knobs of this mixture until the sauce is of the desired thickness. If you like a tablespoon of bitter orange marmalade or redcurrant jelly can be dissolved in the sauce.

Pour some of the sauce over and around the ducks, serving the remainder of it in a jug or sauce boat.

#362 Braised Wild Duck with Apricot Stuffing. I enjoyed the duck and the sauce very much; the braising kept the duck tender and moist and produced a wonderfully flavoured stock. The apricot stuffing was ok, but a little insipid. I think I would have preferred make a forcemeat or sausage meat stuffing that could have been made into balls to surround the ducks. Still, very good, 7/10.

#323 Salmi of Game (or Duck, or Fish)

A salmi, also known as salmis, salomine and salomene is essentially a posh game stew and is an abbreviation of salmagundi which started life in France as a meat ragoût. A salmi, rather than being any meat, should be made using game birds that are partly-cooked, and then finished off in a rich sauce made from their bones, though domesticated birds like capon and Guinea fowl are commonly used. Jane Grigson complains that more often than not, salmi is made from leftover game meat and then offered at high prices in high-end restaurants. ‘Don’t be deceived’, she says, ‘[i]t is exactly what would have been eaten by Chaucer, or his son, at the court of Henry IV, or by that granddaughter of his, Alice, Duchess of Suffolk, at her manor at Ewelme.’ Grigson mentions the food eaten at the court of Henry IV a few times in English Food: giving recipes for quince comfits and ‘a coronation doucet’.

The dish originally came from medieval France and game wasn’t necessary, as this recipe shows that Grigson found dating from 1430 that uses fish:
Salomene:
Take good wine, and good powder, and bread crumpled, and sugar and boil it together; then take trout, roach, perch, or carp, or all these together, and make them clean, and after roast them on a griddle; then hew them in gobbets [chunks]; when they be cooked, dry them in oil a little, then cast them in the bruet [the sauce] and when you dress it, take mace, cloves, cubebs, gilliflowers; and cast them on top, and serve forth.

Cubebs are a type of pepper (latin name: Piper cubeba) that you can still buy from specialists, gilliflowers are a very fragrant species of carnation and ‘powder’ refers to a mixture of ground spices.

I have been eager to cook a couple of game recipes whilst I am over in England for Christmas, and seeing as I was in London, I thought I would visit the very excellent butcher Allen’s of Mayfair – an amazing place that consists of a central circular butcher’s block surrounded by the meat hanging up around it. I felt as though I had walked into a scene from a Dickens novel. I bought a couple of mallards and used those for the salmi.

Roast your game birds rare, cut the meat from the carcass into neat ‘gobbets’.

Use the carcasses to make ¾ pint of game stock. Melt 2 ounces of butter in a pan and cook 3 chopped shallots until soft and golden. Now stir in a heaped tablespoon of flour and whisk in the hot stock a third at a time to prevent lumps forming.

Add a bouquet garni and a pared strip of orange peel (Seville oranges would be great if you can get them) and simmer for 20 minutes, to make a thick sauce. Pass the sauce through a sieve and add ¼ pint of red or white wine and 4 ounces of mushrooms that have been fried in butter. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Simmer for a further 5 minutes, then add the game and simmer very gently again for 10 more minutes. Add a little cayenne pepper. Serve with orange wedges and croûtons fried in butter.

#323 Salmi of Game (or Duck, or Fish). I must admit that I was a little worried about eating mallard – the last time I cooked them it was pretty grim (see here). I needn’t have worried though, it seems that the previous mallards had been overhung because this salmi of mallard was delicious. The meat was beautifully tender and surprisingly mild in its gaminess considering how dark the flesh was. The sauce too was wonderfully rich and silky. Plus the inclusion of orange wedges for squeezing was inspired. Tres bon! 9/10.

#294 Preserved Spiced Oranges (Part II)

Do you remember that time I lived in Texas? It seems like an age away, but it was only three months ago that I packed up my stuff and headed for Missouri. I remember gingerly packing my tins and bottles of various foods, hoping they wouldn’t get broken in the move. Amongst them were the jars of the Preserved Spiced Oranges I made in Maytime. I decided it was about time to try them. I admit I was putting them off rather – the last orange-based recipe was Soyer’s Orange Salad, which basically slices of raw orange sat in brandy, and it shall not be made again.
Anyways, these orange slices are to be served with hot or cold pork, duck, ham – I expect goose too. I decided roast a duck to mark the occasion of opening up a jar of these oranges. Oddly, there is no recipe for roast duck in English Food. Therefore, as it is an omission, I shall be adding my own recipe to the other blog (and here is the link). Though it is worth mentioning that I used a bit of the syrup from the jar to flavour my gravy. Grigson also mentions that the leftover syrup makes a great sauce for duck.
#294 Preserved Orange Slices. Well I do wish I hadn’t left trying these for so long, for they were delicious! The oranges had become very tender, without any bitterness at all. They were wonderfully warmingly sweet with the now well-infused cinnamon, cloves and mace. All that sugar and spice was cut beautifully by the white wine vinegar. Good work, Griggers! 8.5/10.

#295 Purée of Dried Peas with Green Peppercorns

A rather upmarket version of that Northern English speciality, mushy peas. There is an infamous incident of the MP (now Lord!) Peter Mandelson visiting his constituency canvassing for votes, where he walked into a fish and chip shop and asked for ‘some of that guacamole’. The ponce. Unfortunately, after a little research, I found on the website of that evil news rag, The Daily Mail, that it is in fact a myth and it ever happened. Shame. But why should the truth get in the way of a good story, eh?

Peter Mandelson getting hit by what appears to be a purée of dried peas

The pea has been popular in Europe for donkeys years – settlements in France dating back to the third millennium BC have been discovered with the remains of pea pods. Dried peas, go back to Roman times; in fact, they were preferred over fresh. Also, luckily for us, the pea became a very common garden vegetable, and Gregor Mendel, the garden-loving Austrian monk, spotted patterns in the variation between pea plants he was breeding and came up with the first theory of genetics. He wasn’t recognised during his lifetime. So often is the way.

Gregor Mendel, Father of Genetics and pea-fancier

This recipe isn’t really to go with your fish and chips (though omit the peppercorns and it will be perfect), it is to go with duck and pork. I took this as an excuse to get a nice rib roasting joint from Harrison Hog Farms, a great farm here in Houston that really looks after its very English-looking pig breeds. So if you go to a Houston farmer’s market andyou spot them, give them a try as their pork is excellent.

What makes this recipe posh is the pickled green peppercorns. They’re not something that you’ll find in the supermarket, but they’re pretty easy to get hold of in delicatessens.

Right then, to make this purée, put a pound of dried split peas in a large saucepan along with a chopped carrot and a chopped onion plus a bouquet garni (I went for parsley, bay leaves, sage leaves, thyme and rosemary in mine). Cover well with water, bring to a boil and cover and simmer until cooked – around 45 minutes. On no account add salt, it makes the peas hard and they won’t cook. This is speaking from personal experience. Fish out the bouquet garni and pass the peas through a mouli-legumes in a bowl (you can use a potato-masher if you want but a blender would make it far too smooth).

Now stir in a large knob of butter and season well with salt (at least a teaspoon) and some sugar. Lastly, mix in a tablespoon of pickled green peppercorns as well as one to two teaspoons of the juice from the can. Easy.

#295 Purée of Dried Peas with Green Peppercorns. This one of the best recipes from the Vegetables chapter of the book. Really delicious and much better than the bought mushy peas you find in cans, and – dare I say it – the chippy! The addition of the bouquet garni and the simple stock veg really lifted it, and the pickled peppercorns were great, little exploding pods of subtle spiciness that transformed a vegetable side dish into the main event. 9/10.

#294 Preserved Orange Slices (part 1)

These oranges are flavoured with a heady mix of cinnamon, mace and cloves; quite a wintery combination, I suppose. In Victorian times, the orange was the most prized Christmas gift and British children would have waited with baited breath to get their hands on them. This did not apply to Irish children though – a little earlier in history, William of Orange’s extreme anti-Catholic laws were so unpopular that the Irish people made a declaration that no orange tree would ever be planted in Irish soil.

William III of Orange (aka ‘King Billy’ by Irish Protestants)
In Europe, the best oranges have always come from Spain, and so it is no surprise that the first orange plantation in America was also Spanish. It was, of course, in Florida and it was built in 1579. After a few years of settlement, orange trees were discovered all over the forests, causing the surprised Spanish settlers to conclude that the orange must have been native to America! It turned out to not be the case – Native Americans had been stealing oranges and spitting the pips as they ate them.

I had been planning on doing these preserved oranges for a while as they are an accompaniment to pork and duck, my two new favourite meats, thanks to recent recipes here in the blog. I’ve only just gotten round to making them because a spice required for the recipe is mace – in the form of blades. Tricky, as supermarkets don’t stock them. However, now I have a car I could pop to The Heights area of Houston and visit Penzey’s spices. What a great shop! Every spice and spice blend you could ever need. Luckily, there is a store in St Louis, so I can keep myself stocked up when I move there. My favourite bit was Granny’s Kitchen which had all the baking spices.

Anyway, enough waffle. Here’s the recipe…

Begin by slicing 10 large oranges – keep them thick, about a centimetre is good – place them in a large pan and cover them with water.

Bring to a boil, cover and simmer gently for 30 to 40 minutes until the peel has softened. Don’t stir the oranges around as they will break up. Meanwhile, in another pan, dissolve 2 ½ pounds of granulated sugar in a pint of white wine vinegar. Add 1 ½ sticks cinnamon, a heaped teaspoon of cloves and 6 blades of mace to the vinegar syrup and boil for a total of 3 or 4 minutes.

When the oranges are done, drain them, reserving the orange liquor. Return the oranges to their pan and pour over the syrup to cover – if there isn’t enough, use some of the orange liquor. Cover, bring to simmering point and cook gently for a further 25 to 30 minutes.

Take off the heat and leave for 24 hours. Next day, pot in sterilised jars. Top up with syrup over the next or two, should they need to be. Here’s the catch though folks: you now have to leave them for at least 6 weeks to mature! When the time is up, they can be served with hot or cold pork, ham or duck. The syrup also makes a good sauce for duck too. Apparently.

#294 Preserved Orange Slices. Well we shall have to have a bit of patience over these. It’s strange to think that when they are ready, I’ll be living in St Louis. I can say that the syrup is delicious though. Look here for the results.

#292 Isle of Man Salt Duck


After returning from my little trip back to England and Ireland, I wanted to cook something that evoked some memories of it whilst all was still fresh in my mind. There are no Irish recipes in English Food, but there are a couple of Manx recipes (if you are from the Isle of Man, you are Manx). When Hugh and I flew the short distance from Belfast to Liverpool, we looked out the window and he told me about the bits of coastline and other features, and of course the Isle of Man was pointed out, looking surprisingly small. I’ve never managed to go to the Isle of Man, but it looked very pretty from the air.

This is apparently a traditional Manx cured meat dish, but I did a quick internet search and could find any references to it at all, so I can’t give you any background information I’m afraid, Grigsoners. The cure is very simple to do; you simply have to pack coarse sea salt inside and outside of a duck 24-hours before you want to cook it. I assume in the days when this was done for actual preservation of meat, rather than for flavour, the duck could have been cured for several days or weeks. When you are ready to cook it, brush off the salt, rinsing off any tricky to remove bits and place in a pot with enough water to barely cover it.

Cover, bring to a simmer and let it happily gurgle away for between an hour and ninety minutes, depending on the size. I am always worried about doing the boiled meat recipes in the book, I always think they are going to come out insipid and boring, especially in this case as there was no call for any stock vegetables or seasoning with spices. I invited my friends Danny and Eric around to sample the delights – hoping it would taste okay…

If you like, you can cure your duck in brine instead – check out the recipe and instructions on brining meat here.

While the duck is simmering away gently, you can be getting on with the accompaniments: an onion sauce and colcannon (an Irish invention of potatoes and either cabbage or kale mashed together).

For the onion sauce, chop four large onions and add them to a pan with just enough water to cover them, season, cover with a lid, and allow them to simmer for fifteen minutes. Drain them over a bowl, so that the cooking liquor is saved. Add half a pint of milk and just under a pint of the liquor to the pan along with half an ounce of butter and bring to a simmer. Measure two level tablespoons of cornflour and slake it with a little more cold milk and whisk it into the hot sauce; it will thicken instantly. Simmer for a few more minutes so that the cornflour can cook out. Add the onions back to the pan and season with plenty of salt and pepper – very important here to season it very well – plus the grated rind of a lemon. Add more liquor or milk if it becomes too thick. This sauce can be (and was!) made in advance – make sure you keep it covered with a lid or some cling film to prevent a skin from forming if you do.

For the colcannon, boil equal amounts of potato and kale or cabbage together in a pan. Drain, and mash with butter and salt and pepper. If you are feeling extravagant, add a little blob of cream.
When the duck is cooked, make sure you let it rest for about twenty minutes before you carve it.

#292 Isle of Man Salt Duck. I must admit, when the duck was taken out of pan to rest, it did not look that appetizing with its podgy fat and no hint of colour. I’m used to eating roast duck. However, when I cut inside, there was the most tender duck meat within. It was salty, but not overpoweringly. It also had very subtle flavour too, as did the onion sauce, which I expected to be terribly strong. Instead, it was light and very good for a spring or summer meal. The colcannon was a great accompaniment too. This kind of good, but bland food, really requires heavy seasoning, otherwise it is in danger of becoming tasteless pap. This was not tasteless pap however: 7/10.