October 1998

Topsham, Devon October 15, 1998 Having just about recovered from both Nello's Addio as well as the three day festivities of the wedding itself, it has been back to work for us all. Nello and Karen returned from their honeymoon 'cycling' around Ireland at the weekend suitably exhausted from their exertions (they also found time apparently to ride their bikes from time to time). Meanwhile, we've been squirrelled away in our office struggling to meet some pressing copy deadlines. A number of friends have asked me for the recipe for the salt duck which I made for the Addio -- it is one of those dishes that is actually embarrassingly simple yet stunningly delicious. I urge you to try it!


Welsh salt duck with Cabernet beurre blanc

Our friend Bobby Freeman, a leading authority on Welsh food, taught me many years ago how to make this unusual but wondrously delicious dish. You simply bury a duck in salt and leave it for three days, then rinse it off and boil gently for 2-3 hours. The shredded duck meat emerges incredibly succulent and tender yet with the deep, slightly salty flavour of a French confit. Bobby might serve the salt duck with a sauce made from laver and orange, but I like it served tepid with a rich yet slightly sharp butter sauce.

Bobby wrote about this and many other delicious Welsh foods in her now classic work First Catch Your Peacock while this recipe (but not the sauce) first appeared in our book The Taste of Britain, published by Webb & Bower (1985).

1 freerange duck, about 1 1/2-2 kg

1.5 kg sea salt

1 onion, chopped

2 carrots, coarsely chopped

For the Cabernet beurre blanc

4 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

150 g. unsalted butter, cut into cubes and at room temperature

1 bottle Cabernet Sauvignon wine

Zest from an orange

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Some rocket or mâche leaves dressed with olive oil and sherry vinegar to garnish.

Wipe the duck clean. Add a bed of the salt to a large container, lay the duck on the salt, then cover completely with the remaining salt, rubbing in well. Leave in a cool place for 3 days, rubbing in the salt well from time to time.

Remove from the salt and rinse the duck well. Place in a large stockpot together with the chopped onion and carrots. Bring gently to the boil, and skim off the grey scum that rises to the surface. Cook at the barest simmer for 2-3 hours or until the duck is tender and virtually falling off the bones. Defat and reserve the cooking liquid to make soup (I like to make pasta e fagioli with this; surprisingly, it is not too salty). Remove the duck when cool enough to handle and skin and bone, shredding the meat with a fork.

To make the Cabernet beurre blanc, place the finely chopped shallots in a bain mairie together with the vinegar, and cook slowly for about an hour until the shallots are very soft. Meanwhile, add the bottle of wine to a saucepan and reduce to 1/3. Add the reduced wine and the freshly grated orange zest to the shallot and vinegar mixture and, still over the simmering bain mairie, beat in the unsalted butter, whisking all the time to make a creamy emulsion. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place a bit of dressed salad on one side of a plate, then spoon on some of the Cabernet sauce. Lay some of the shredded salt duck on the sauce, and top with a bit more.

Wine suggestion: The deeply flavoured duck combine with the rich yet slightly sharp wine and butter sauce demands a full, fruity but not overly tannic Cabernet, preferably from Napa (try Stag's Leap) or Chile (Viña Carmen is a top example).


Copyright © Marc Millon 2000


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