At this time of year I’m used to preparing freshly shot wild duck. Especially after a blustery evenings shoot I could be in the shed for a couple of hours plucking the birds and removing any lead shot from the flesh. As I always say, ” Taking the shot is the easiest part, anyone can point a gun and squeeze the trigger. But the hardest part begins when you have to prepare your quarry”. Plucking a duck can be tricky because of the downy feathers underneath the outside feathers. These little feathers stick everywhere. This is a job I have perfected over many years of hunting with hands on experience. A quick google search will point you in the right direction of how to do it, if you get your hands on a full feathered friend. Always remove the feathers first before removing the innards. The reason why we keep the skin on is because the taste and flavour of the meat are all enhanced in the cooking when the skin crisps up and releases fine rich juices on to the plate. Wild meat or game is generally quite lean with little fat hence the health benefits from the low levels of cholesterol. I am sure there is a market out there for skinless meat but this is reserved for people who hate food.
For the last couple of months we have being raising our own ducks and geese. They have had a diet of corn and mixed vegetation. All in all it has been a totally different experience compared to the pigs. These waterfowl are dirty little birds. Mud and muck everywhere. The pigs were pristine compared to them. The birds have put on weight and are now ready for consumption. The Aylesbury ducks are just shy of 4kg dead weight. Not bad at all.
Just to re-cap, at this time of year I don my water-proof camo, put on my waders and grab the shot gun. I then head out to a flooded field at dusk to shoot duck in the cold wind and rain. I know it may not sound like it but, it is truly rewarding when you gather your ducks and arrive home to a roaring fire and reminisce on the ones that got away. So you can imagine how alien it felt walking into our duck pen with my crook and grabbing a duck, ringing its neck and heading home. Self sufficiency is the ultimate reward here. From the allotment to the pot meant, a great deal to me. Here is our first homegrown duck recipe to try.
2 Duck breasts
2 tea bags of earl grey
2 cups of rice
Soft brown sugar
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp shaohsing rice wine
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp five spice
Salt and pepper to season
Place duck breasts into a zip lock bag. Add in rice vinegar, rice wine, soy sauce, five spice and salt and pepper. Seal bag and set aside in the fridge to marinate for an hour. Prepare your roasting pan by covering it with tin foil. Turn rack upside down so you have more clearance for the meat to be smoked. In the bottom of your pan, on top of the foil place the rice in a pile in the centre. Break open the tea bags and pour leaves onto the rice. Add a tsp of brown sugar to this mound. The rice helps the tea leaves not to burn but to release a gentle fragrance that permeates the duck. Remove duck from bag and place on rack. Create a foil tent on the outside of the roasting pan. Seal it as neatly as you can. Place pan into a pre-heated oven at 150C for 35 mins.
Once smoked, finish the ducks off in a hot pan with a little oil to crisp up the skin. I brushed mine with some hoisin sauce and brown sugar mix to give it a final pizazz. Serve with some fried leek or spring onion and rice. To make the rice you just need to add a couple of shavings of orange skin, with the pit or white bit scraped away, to rice and water. Bring it to the boil as normal and as it steams you will have the most aromatic citrus rice.