I have had a bit of a sour cherry theme to this week, last night we had roast duck with sour cherry sauce, served with red cabbage which included, of course, dried sour cherries. It was very tasty too.
We don’t eat much duck in this house, but when I was in the supermarket this week I nearly picked up a chicken but was drawn to the duck instead. I always buy free range chickens and if there is an organic one available I will have that. I noticed that you cannot get an organic, or indeed free range, duck from the supermarket that I was in, so I went for the next best – an RSPCA Freedom Food endorsed bird. Perhaps Hugh and Jamie should get on the case of all poultry farming, as the choice when you want to buy turkey seems even more limited. I try to buy our meat from the butcher as much as I can, but sometimes when you are already in the supermarket this is an impractical option and interestingly whilst we have two very good local butchers, both with excellent reputations for their meat, it can be difficult to get free range birds from either of them so I tend to buy our chicken at the supermarket where it is labelled as organic and free range.
Anyway, back to the meal. I have adapted Delia Smith’s version of the recipe, which can be found in her Winter Collection, by omitting the Morello cherry jam and using instead a scant tablespoon of dark soft brown sugar to the reduced gravy. I followed Delia’s instructions for cooking the duck, which includes taking the bird out of the wrapping as soon as you get it home and placing it in the fridge for a day without any covering so that the skin becomes really dry before cooking and then cooking it for a long time to achieve a lovely crispy skin and a duck that does not taste too fatty.
Just before cooking the duck is pricked all over with a fork, so that the fat can escape, and then placed on a grill rack in a roasting tin. The duck came with its giblets so I placed these underneath the duck in the roasting tin to flavour the gravy. The duck is put into a preheated oven at 220°c (425°f, gas mark 7) for 30 minutes. The heat is then turned down to 180°c (350°f, gas mark 4) and the duck is cooked for another 2 hours. You may need to pour off some of the fat during the cooking time. Whilst the duck rests the gravy can be made.
For the gravy:
400 ml red wine
25g dried sour cherries
1 tbsp dark soft brown sugar
Soak the cherries in the red wine whilst the duck is cooking so that they are nice and plump. Delia recommends fifteen minutes of soaking but I left mine for 2 hours and they were lovely.
After the duck has been removed to a plate to keep warm and rest, remove the giblets from the pan and pour the fat off, leaving the juices remaining in the pan. Place the pan on a medium heat and add the wine (with the cherries), stirring to deglaze the pan, making sure all the tasty crusty bits are incorporated into the gravy. Reduce the liquid by about a half, so that it is thick and syrupy and add the sugar to taste (you may need more, or you may need less). Season with salt and pepper and pour over the carved bird.