I call these Fruits of the Dark Forest Meringues because the meringue has some kirsch and cocoa in it – like a Black Forest Gateau. But it’s topped with a different selection of fruit. There’s no cherries in it.
What do you get if you combine an Aubergine Gateau with some sweet tapenade, some rice and some puy lentils? You get a Mediterranean Veggie Bake. Very easy, very healthy, very filling – and quite cheesy.
I hadn’t bought any Christmas food for the holidays really, beyond the makings of a Black Forest Gateau. I was going home for the day so there was no need really.
But I did miss having a fridge full of goodies. So I had what I thought was a genius plan; Buy stuff after the day and get it all for next to nothing. Sure why not? So I was imagining getting some smoked trout, sour cream, cheese boards, etc, etc. Only to find that there didn’t seem to be any of it left by December 27th. What is going on with the supermarkets???
But I did find this crown of duck and I wondered what it would be like cooked according to recipe I have for stuffed goose. It’s the same recipe book I got the melon soup recipe from. That recipe uses a stuffing of diced cooking apples, prunes soaked in port, chopped pecan nuts, sausage meat, goose liver, egg, orange zest and some seasoning. I really like it.
What’s different about this recipe?
Quite a bit really. I was worried that since duck is such a fatty bird that the stuffing would end up drowned in fat and ruined. That didn’t happen thankfully and I believe it’s because of the way the duck is cooked, and because the bratwurst sausage meat is much drier and less fat filled than the sausages I would normally use in the stuffing. And bratwurst is gluten-free. Who knew? Not me until I just checked the ingredients out of curiousity.
The bratwurst really is very dry so you need to mix it up in the food processor to turn it into a sort of mince.
The way I cooked the duck was similar to the way it’s cooked in the Gordon Ramsay duck breast recipe. I seared the top and sides of the crown and then roasted in the oven on a grate. Perhaps I should have seared it a bit more. I was worried I’d dry out the meat or give it a burnt taste. So I didn’t make sure it was dark brown and crispy all over. It was still very good but the bits that were dark brown and crispy after being seared stayed that way throughout the cooking process despite being basted a couple of times.
I did add orange zest to the stuffing but I’m leaving it out of the recipe here because with the small amount of stuffing in this recipe it overpowers it. And it’s not necessary. There is plenty of flavour from the rest of the ingredients.
I also use chestnuts rather than pecan nuts – and I think I’ll keep that substitution. Or maybe add in some pecan nuts with the chestnuts. I love pecan nuts – I just didn’t have any in the cupboard when I made this. But the sweet mushiness of the chestnuts is very nice in the stuffing.
And instead of making caramelized apples I just made some applesauce. Simple and so nice. The caramelized apples are good too – just didn’t have any redcurrant jelly. That said, because the stewed apple was so nice and so simple to make, that’s probably what I’m going to do in future.
One important note
This 900g duck serves two people. Really. It’s little more than two duck breasts. If you’re very good at carving you might be able to stretch it better. But really this makes a wonderful feast for two. No more.
selection of sweet root vegetables, parsips, carrots or swede, thickly cut for roasting under the duck
For the stuffing
90g Bratwurst sausage meat (1 Bratwurst sausage with casing removed and discarded)
50g chestnuts, cooked and peeled
1 shallot, peeled, topped and tailed
8 - 10 pitted prunes, soaked in port for 24 hours
1/2 cooking apple, peel, cored and diced
2 tablespoons of the soaking port
1 small egg, beaten
leaves from 2 sprigs of sage
leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme
2 sprigs parsley
For the applesauce
1.5 cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
light brown sugar
For the gravy
leftover soaking port
strained juice from 1 orange
2 large onions, topped, tailed, peeled, halved and roasted
100 ml hot chicken stock (_or boiling hot water that has been infused with garlic, herbs, nutmeg, salt and pepper_)
1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
some fresh thyme leaves
The day before place 8 - 10 pitted prunes in a small bowl and cover completely with ruby port.
Remove the duck from the packing and leave on the counter. Prick the skin on all over being careful not to prick the flesh. Sprinkle with a little fine salt and rub into the skin.
Turn on the oven to 200C.
To make the stuffing
Add the shallot to a food mixer and blend till it's diced. Remove the bratwurst from its casing. Slice the meat and add to the mixer along with the sage, thyme and parsley. Mix until it's all minced. It will have a sort of speckled green breadcrumb look to it.
In a bowl mash up the chestnuts with a fork. Add the minced sausage mix to this. Combine well with the beaten egg.
Quarter the prunes and mix these in also, along with the diced cooking apple. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the soaking port.
Stuffing and cooking the duck
Rub a little fine salt inside the duck's cavity. Fill with the stuffing being sure to leave a little room for air to circulate. You may have some stuffing leftover. You can cook this outside the duck in a different dish. Skewer the skin around the cavity closed.
Heat a dry frying pan to a high heat. Sear the top and sides of the duck in the pan. Let the skin reach a deep rich brown colour on the tops and sides. If you do this the skin will stay crispy throughout the cooking process.
Spray a little sunflower or vegetable oil on the roasting tin and place the thickly cut root vegetable on this. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Cover with a grate or rack. Carefully place the duck on the grate. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes.
Take out. Turn the oven down to 180 C. Remove the grate and duck from the pan. Add the onions. Baste the duck. Place the rack and bird back in the pan. Place the pan back in the oven and cook for 45 minutes.
Take out of the oven. Tranfer the duck to a serving dish and baste once more. Leave to rest for 30 minutes.
Leaving the grate in the tin, lift up the pan and pour out most of the fat into a strainer over a bowl or glass. Let the fat solidfy and refridgerate for later use.
Take the grate out of the tin. Press down on the onions so that the layers separate. Check how well done the root vegetables are. You might want to chop them smaller if they are not nearly done - or if they are quite well done already take them out of the pan. At this point I also added 150g of cooked chestnuts to the pan. Bake for a further 30 minutes or until everything is nicely roasted. When done remove the root vegetables (_and chestnuts if you've added them_) to a serving dish.
To make the applesauce
Add the sliced cooking apple to a small saucepan with a little water - about 50 - 75ml. Cover and cook on a moderate heat until the apple is soft enough to be easily mashed with a fork into a golden brown mush. Add enough sugar that it is just sweet but still tart. About 2 - 3 teaspoons. Pour into a small serving bowl.
To make the gravy
Remove any obviously burnt bits from the roasting tin. Pour in the hot chicken stock (or infused water) and scrape off the onion and bits from the pan. Pour this into a blender or food mixer. Add in the strained orange juice, the leftover port, the wholegrain mustard, thyme leaves and salt. Blend till as smooth as possible. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. When I made this I added too much liquid to the roasting tin and I had to add some gf instant gravy powder to thicken it. I wish I hadn't because I prefer the taste without it. Also you could just try reducing the gravy in a saucepan if this happens to you.
Serve with creamy mash potatoes and peas. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!