The brace of wild ducks currently decimating my beetroot and green manure crops, who make themselves quite at home on the winter-filled dam, knew, I swear it, that I was cooking one of their kin last weekend. Normally cautious at the best of times, they exploded into the air whenever I stepped over the threshold on Friday, landed with a double thud and slipped under the wire to the safety of the back fence, eyeing me warily through it until I was well out of sight again. I love those guys. Love them even more when they bring their babes, later in the year, to swim in the cold, clear spring water. Reformed Vegetarian Guilt, right there. Hmm.
In the kitchen, their roasted relative was less than stellar, I am sorry to say. Tamasin Day-Lewis had warned that duck is "notoriously difficult to carve" and she was correct. We butchered it trying to prise small amounts of meat from what looked, for all intents and purposes, to be a glorious bronzed breast. Found myself wishing I'd made duck confit again, as I'd done some weeks before. Anyway, newsflash: you can do the initial slow cooking of duck legs in olive oil rather than vats of duck fat which, though veering toward expensive, won't set you back nearly as much as 7 or 8 tins of poultry fat will. Thank you, Adrian Richardson. The truth is though that duck is a meat best reserved, in my case at least, for once a year occasions. A roasted chook is better value, more satisfying and, dare I suggest, a more festive option. Lessons, lessons. Always.