Recipe: Duck with apples, beetroot, sausages and bread sauce

This exciting combination from Valentine Warner will make a memorable feast. Set aside an afternoon for making it.

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For the duck

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1 large duck
6 large good pork sausages
Salt
2 tsp dried sage
600g (1lb 5oz) beetroots, peeled and chopped to rough 2.5cm (1in) cubes
Sea salt

1 Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7. Fry the sausages in oil until well browned; they do not need to be cooked through. Take a large roasting tray and place a small baking rack within it. Place the duck on the rack.

2 Remove the giblets from the cavity and put to one side, then insert the sausages.

3 Prick the duck skin all over just into the fat, then salt the skin heavily. Put the duck in the oven and roast for 30 mins. After this time remove the duck, baste with fat and scatter with dried sage. Pour off most of the excess fat then add the beetroot pieces and toss in the tray fat with some salt and pepper.

4 Return the duck to the oven for a further 50-60 mins but with the oven now turned down to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. The thigh juices should run clear when the meat is pierced deeply with a skewer. The tip of the skewer should also be hot to the lip.

5 While the duck cooks make the bread sauce gravy and apples. When cooked, remove the duck to a platter and arrange the beetroots and apples around it. Remember the sausages inside.

For the apples

6 Cox’s apples, peeled, halved and cored
40g (1½oz) butter
A splash of sunflower oil
50ml (2fl oz) malt vinegar
2 tsp caster sugar
Salt and pepper

1 Melt the butter with a small splash of sunflower oil to stop it burning and fry the apples gently for 10 mins or so until well browned. Splash with the vinegar and cook it all away before adding the sugar. Swirl in the sugar until the apples are covered in a browned glaze. Season.

2 Transfer to a small ovenproof dish and reheat for 10 mins before the duck comes out.

For the gravy

Neck and gizzard of duck
Quartered onion with skin left on
1 small carrot, roughly chopped
600ml (1pt) water
Salt and pepper
2 tsp flour

1 In a small pan, fry the neck and gizzard hard with the veg until all are browned. Add the water and simmer this stock for 40 mins. Add salt to taste at the end.

2 When the duck is ready, pour away excess fat, leaving juices in the tray. Whisk in flour for 30 secs then add strained stock and whisk until thickened.

For the bread sauce

500ml (1pt) whole milk
1 small onion, peeled and halved
8 cloves
2 small bay leaves
150g (5oz) stale fine white breadcrumbs
A big knob of butter
½ tsp flaked sea salt
Black pepper
A grating of nutmeg

1 Put the milk in a small pan. Stud one half of the onion with the cloves then put them both in the pan in the milk with the bay leaves. Heat very gently so the milk barely simmers.

2 Cook for 20 mins until the onion is very soft. Take the onion pieces out of the milk and discard the one with the cloves. Chop the other half as finely as you can until minutely minced and add it back to the pot.

3 Stir the breadcrumbs into the milk until soaked. Fine breadcrumbs will result in a more velvety sauce.

4 Add the butter and cook over a low heat for 20 mins, stirring until the sauce is creamy. Add more milk, if necessary, as the sauce should be like thin porridge. Season with the salt, finely ground black pepper and a hint of nutmeg.

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5 Put to one side and reheat gently before serving, adding more milk if necessary, since the sauce thickens up when made in advance.