Last year in October my friend Fay asked me if I wanted to come to Brighton for a indulgent evening. Intrigued by the indulgent bit I enquired further and she told me she organised a Goddess of chocolate evening. You’d learn how to make chocolate, there was a cocktail bar where you could create your own cocktail, all containing chocolate of course and when I arrived there I saw that there were also two ladies who smothered your body – ok, in this case only your arm – in chocolate to massage you and make your skin incredibly soft.
The icing on the cake was that Heston Blumenthal was coming to join us for some time with his camera crew for his new series called “Feast“. And indeed, half an hour into the evening Heston came and all the ladies went crazy over him.
Anyway, last Tuesday the first episode of the “Feast” series was aired on Channel 4 and I actually forgot about it until luckily I caught the repeat on Channel 4 plus 1 an hour later. The subject of this episode was Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory. Heston went wild! He managed to bring so many fascinating things from the book to life, be it the lickable wallpaper as an amuse bouche or the chocolate waterfall for dessert. And for his main course he wanted to flavour his duck with an orange explosion (but sadly, this didn’t go so well).
His magic mushroom starter was simply out of this world – and I’ve not even tasted it! – and his Duck à l’orange take on was equally crazy and incredibly charming and ever so creative.
And ever since I saw this episode I had such a craving for duck with orange sauce. So I defrosted the duck I bought a few weeks ago when it was on offer and went and bought oranges.
Here’s my take on of a Duck à l’orange. You’ll need:
1 duck with giblets, weighing approximately 5-6 lb (2.25-2.75 kg)
salt and freshly milled black pepper
For the glaze:
1 heaped teaspoon fine-cut Seville orange marmalade (although it works equally fine with coarse cut marmalade and the one I used was especially good, it was homemade by my friend Gilly!)
For the sauce:
3 tablespoons marsala
8 fl oz (225 ml) stock made with the duck giblets (which is really easy to make while your duck roasts in the oven, all you need is a pint of water, add a few bayleaves, some crushed thyme, some dried sage, two juniper berries, some cumin seeds, three roughly chopped garlic cloves, three carrots cut into small chunks, one onion quartered and a few spring onions, just roughly chopped, salt and pepper and of course the duck giblets. Put on the stove, let it boil and then simmer it for two hours.)
grated zest and juice of 1 medium orange
3 level tablespoons Seville orange marmalade
Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (220°C).
Place the duck breast down in a roasting tin and prick the bird all over with a fork. Rub in salt and season with freshly ground pepper. If you have rub in some mugwort, it gives an incredible flavour to the duck. Quarter an orange and place the pieces around the duck. Do the same with an onion.
Put the duck in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes. Then turn the duck around and reduce the heat down to gas mark 4 (180°C) and continue to roast for a further 2½ hours. From time to time take the tin out and press a spoon down on the onions and oranges to release their juices. Drain the duck fat and the juices into a gravy/fat separator and once the liquid fat has settled pour the juices into a bowl. I usually keep the fat in a tall glass in the fridge and use it up over the next few months.
Ten minutes before the end of the cooking take a spoon and spread the orange marmalade all over the skin of the duck and return it to the oven for its final cooking. Once the skin is nicely brown and glistening remove the duck to a carving board to rest while you make the sauce.
Take the duck giblets out of the stock and drain the pot through a sieve into a bowl. Mash the vegetables and press through the sieve to get all the juices and flavours.
Take the roasting tin and add the orange juice to the excess fat and orange and onion pieces. Scrape off all the brown bits in the tin, then empty the tin into a fine sieve over the bowl with the duck stock and press through all the juices.
Now pour the sauce into the fat separating jug, wait until the fat has settled and then pour the sauce into a small pot. Add the orange zest, Seville orange marmalade and the Marsala. Season and simmer gently for 15 minutes. You can thicken the sauce by adding some potato starch or a couple of spoon fulls of Bisto (only if your sauce lacks salt. And most people will add “and only if you are lazy”).
I served the duck with green asparagus, green beans and roast potatoes (boil peeled potatoes until they are just done, drain off all the water, put a lid on the pot and shake the pot a few times so the potatoes are roughed up. While the potatoes are on the stove, I put olive oil (quite generously) on a baking tray and place it in the oven with the duck. When the potatoes are done I take out the tray and put the potatoes on. A bit more olive oil drizzled over the potatoes, some salt, pepper and mixed herbs and back into the oven for 1.5 hours. I then like to take them out and place them into their own oven for the final hour at gas mark 5. In between I turn them a few times to ensure they brown evenly!).
While the duck tasted absolutely divine it looked nothing like Heston Blumenthal’s duck treats!