Chef, Cookery Classes, Cooking, entertaining, family meals, Food, Recipes, slow cooking, Wine

Every goal deserves a (crispy) reward, right?

I love figures. I know you might think it strange , but I see a spreadsheet as a thing of beauty. Neat , organized columns of figures, with built in checks to make sure there are no errors.
So why then does the thought of doing my accounts fill me with fear and dread? Every October it’s the same routine – panic and chaos to get the previous years receipts and invoices in order to give to my accountant.

You’d imagine with all the enforced spare time this year that I would have done it months ago, but no, it took a reminder letter to galvanize me into action. Even the Chief Taster knows better than to ask how the codeword A is progressing !
But in the spirit of Organized October, and building on Grainne’s foundation folder – yes even friends try to help me over this fear – I delivered the files (well the bulk of) to my accountant’s office on Thursday.

Cause for celebration right? Cue Crispy Roast Duck for dinner…

Crispy duck is big favourite in this house but last few times I cooked it I only did the legs and served the meat with pancakes and plum sauce. Last week I spotted full ducks in the freezer section in Lidl so I thought I’d experiment with cooking it in my slow cooker .

So once the duck was defrosted (overnight in the fridge) and the giblets removed, I stuffed the cavity with lemon, garlic, dried limes and star anise

Duck Cavity stuffed with lemon and garlic

I didn’t want the duck to be sitting in it’s own fat as it cooked so I put some vegetables in the base of the slow cooker to act as a trivet

vegetable trivet in slow cooker

To add more flavour, I rubbed a mix of cumin, coriander and seasalt into the skin.

spice rub on duck skin

Then I put the lid on the pot and left the cooker on high for 4 hours and then turned it down low for another 3 hours.

The Chief Taster arrived in to the most tantalizing, delicious cooking smells and suggested we walk down to find a suitable wine. I delivered my files to the accountant on the way and then a Beaujolais Villages was chosen (Yes I know, I should really have insisted on bubbles to mark my achievement!!) 😉

duck cooking in slow cooker

Post walk I transferred the duck to a very hot oven (220 C) for about 30 minutes to crisp up the skin. Plus remember the vegetable trivet – the vegetables had cooked beautifully in the duck fat – so I put them in the oven too!

Duck coming out of oven

In the meantime I made a quick plum sauce, by simmering the following together over a low heat, for 30 minutes :

  • 1 punnet of plums, quartered and stones removed.
  • 1 star anise
  • Good glug of Chinese cooking wine
plum sauce simmering

Dinner was almost ready – all it needed was a big bowl of delicious vegetable egg fried rice flavoured with some oyster sauce and finished with sesame oil.

dinner is served - rice, sauce and duck

Result? It’s made it to the favourite recipe folder and I’m in the running for girlfriend of the year!!!

Just in case you think we’re total gluttons there was lots of meat left on the duck and it’s gone into the freezer to be used at a later date.

Just a thought, in these strange times when we don’t know what will happen over the next few months – this dish would be perfect for a Christmas dinner for 2-3 people 🤶

STAY SAFE AND HAPPY COOKING!

PS I don’t like to brag but I also put all my summer clothes away in the attic this week – neatly sorted of course! Now onto my next organizing project…..

PS 2 Grainne, if you’re reading this, can you please come back and sort my accounts for 2020?

Cooking, Food, Recipes

Dining á deux – Romance is in the air!

Romance is definitely in the air and what better way to celebrate than with a delicious dinner á deux?

This was my Valentine’s meal last year but looking at the dishes I think it deserves another outing……….. see what you think!

Starter : Seductive Scallops on a Pea & Mint Purée

According to my fishmonger, Jason, this dish cannot fail to stir the romantic juices! You can make the purée in advance and reheat just before serving. The trick is to have everything ready before you cook the scallops as they are best served immediately. Allow 3 scallops per person.

To make the puree – heat 125 g frozen petits pois, knob of butter, 50 ml chicken stock andseasoning in a small saucepan and alllow to simmer for 3-4 mins. Then whizz in food processor with a small bunch of mint (chopped) and Voilá!

To cook the scallops make sure your pan is red hot, add a little butter and oil, and sear the scallops (seasoned with little salt & freshly ground cumin) for 1 min each side. You want a nice caramelised colour.

Serve the scallops on a dollop of purée with salad leaves drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

  

Main: Romantic Roast Duck Breast with Plum Sauce

I used the frozen Barbary duck breast from Lidl for this – one at €5.99 is enough for two! (I hope they still have them!)

Again you can make the sauce in advance and reheat when needed. To make the sauce sauté 1 chopped shallot in a little olive oil for a few mins. Add 250g red plums (half a punnet), stoned and cut into wedges alond with 50g demerara sugar and stir til the sugar dissolves. Finally add 50 mlred wine and 300 ml beef stock and simmer until the sauce has reduced and thickened (should take about 15 mins)

Turn your oven to 180C /Gas 4.

To cook the duck – score the skin with a sharp knife and season well. Place the duck breast(s), skin side down, on a cold pan and bring up to temmperature. (this will stop your meat seizing up ) and cook for 6 mins. Then turn the duck over and add 25g butter, 1 star anise and a sprig of thyme to the pan. Baste the breast(s) with the juices and then transfer to pre heated oven (check your pan is oven proof, if not transfer duck to roasting dish!). Roast for 5-6 mins for pink or 10 mins for well done. Baste the duck with the juices and allow to rest for 5 mins before carving.

Serve the duck breast on a bed of mash with plum sauce spooned around.

Dessert: Decandent Chocolate Cocktails

This  rich, luscious chocolatey dessert looks really well served in martini glasses.

Mix 2 tbsp of your liqueur of choice (I used Cointreau but I want to try Mint Baileys…) into 170ml ofdouble cream. Remove 3tbsp of the cream mix and reserve for later. Then heat the remaining cream in a small saucepan until just boiling.

Pour the hot cream over 50g dark chocolate pieces (70% cocoa please!) and stir to melt the chocolate. Divide the mix between 2 martini glasses and allow to cool.

Whip the remaining cream and spoon over the chocolate ( think a pint of guiness!). Then allow to chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

Timing

To make sure your meal flows smoothly make the dessert, pea purée and plum sauce in advance. You could also make the mash a little ahead of time if you want.

Set your beautiful romantic table, make yourself beautiful/handsome. Pour the champagne.  Then return to cooker and sear the duck (I advise wearing an apron for this part!). When you have transferred the duck to the oven, cook and serve the scallops.

Allow the duck to rest while you reheat the sauce and the mash – plate it up and enjoy.

All you need to do with the dessert is dust with cocoa – using a heart stencil of course.

Now the rest is up to you………………

Happy Cooking!