Sunday, 4 March 2012

Best Rhubarb Quackers in the world...ever.

I have the misfortune of periodically being mocked by my colleagues for proclaiming to have made the best X (insert pizza, pasta, burger etc) in the world ever for tea the previous night. Although these declarations are made with tongue firmly in cheek to convey my enthusiasm for cooking, I think I may be on to something...

I'd love to cook seasonally, foraging in my patch for the inviting fruit or vegetable that's ripe for the plucking. Alas, with supermarket shelves perennially stocked with goods with more air miles than Yuri Gagarin, it's difficult not to be enticed too soon.

So it is with my dutch rhubarb that I bring you:

Ducks legs in rhubarb and Madeira with spinach and mash (serves 2)


2 Ducks legs
1 stem of rhubarb, flower removed as poisonous
200 ml Madeira
2 cloves of garlic
3 large sprigs of thyme
12 charlotte new potatoes
Large handful of spinach
1 spring onion
Butter for sauteing and mash
Splash of milk
Sprinkling of brown sugar
salt and pepper for seasoning

Score the skin on the ducks legs, season and place skin side down in a large buttered pan. When the skin has lightly browned (think more latte than espresso), place the legs skin side up in a medium sized casserole dish and set the pan to one side. Chop one of the stems of rhubarb into roughly inch thick pieces, and add to the dish along with the thyme, crushed garlic (physically, not emotionally), Madeira. Sprinkle the rhubarb with the sugar to draw out the sweetness. 

When I researched this dish, I found Curtis Stone's recipe which use port and chicken stock instead of Madeira. Although both fortified wines, I find port a little over powering, where as I find the nutty notes in Madeira better compliment the rhubarb, and thyme, and the juices from the duck compensate for the chicken stock - try it with both though and let me know what you think.

Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake on 160c for 45 minutes.

Heston's recipe for the ultimate mash will give spectacular results, but is more haute cuisine than gastro, although I do agree with using charlottes for your mash. Watch out for RSI though as they do take a while to peel.

Peel and boil your potatoes in lightly salted water for 12 to 15 mins (test with a knife after to 10 to check). Drain, add the splash of milk, knob of butter and mash until smooth. Season and stir through your chopped spring onions. The heat from the mash will warm them, but will retain some much needed crunch.

Return the pan you used to brown the ducks legs to the heat and toss through the spinach until slightly wilted, remove and set to one side - save the pan again!

Check the duck and if the juices are clear, remove from the oven and take off the foil - this gives the meat a chance to relax, contemplate...

Now to assemble your creation. Place one dollop of mash in the middle of the plate. Perch a ducks leg at a jaunty angle and scatter half of the spinach around it. Remove the rhubarb from the casserole dish and place atop the spinach. Strain the juices through a sieve into the duck leg/spinach pan and reduced by half. Pour over the duck and serve.

I could drink the sauce alone, the flavour is stunning. Can't wait to tell the guys about it...


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