23 October 2011

fowl play

We are eternally grateful for BBC radio on the internet. We can't get BBC telly online (trust me, I've tried everything) but radio on the iPlayer truly is our lifeline. Our current pick of the week is I've Never Seen Star Wars, a show in which gently comedic celebrities admit to four things they've never done. They proceed to do those things on the radio and mark each experience out of ten.

There appears to be some clear editorial steer on what constitutes an appropriate experience. Firstly, as the title suggests, it must be something commonplace that you would expect the most averagely urbane of people to have done. Sarah Millican using chopsticks, Kathy Burke trying her hand at life drawing, Alan Davies going for a pedicure. That sort of thing. There have been a few more extreme examples too - Giles Coren trying veganism was a particular favourite of mine. And I have a vague recollection of Nigel Havers getting a tattoo a few years ago. I say vague because the more I think about it the less likely it seems. Perhaps it was a dream borne of fevered delirium.

We frequently muse on our personal INSSWs. It's quite tricky, because we reckon the second rule is to avoid greediness. I've never been upgraded on a plane, owned a Diane von Furstenburg dress or been to Paris - but those requests just wouldn't be cricket. Mind you, since we're on the subject, if anyone could actually arrange that simultaneous hat-trick I'd be jolly grateful.

Our third rule is, when push comes to shove, it's got to be something you're actually prepared to try. For example, I've never eaten kway chap or a KFC, but I'd really rather keep it that way.

So here's my current list:
1. I've never been on a snowboard
I probably need to try this before my bones get too old, by all accounts it simply breaks your arse.
2. I've never had my eyebrows threaded
My Indian hairdresser tells me that she has everything threaded, and that having your hairline shaped into the perfect widow's peak is more painful than kidney stones - the mind boggles.
3. I've never attended a birth...
...that I wasn't fundamentally involved in. I feel cheated that my husband trumps me on this one.
4. I've never cooked a duck
Because I mean, seriously, who has?

This month, Dom's Random Recipe was to be selected by a fellow blogger and, by chance, it offered the opportunity for me to tick one item off my list. No prizes for guessing which one.

Dom paired me with the lovely Sharky Oven Gloves in Edinburgh, who randomly selected my tatty old retrolicious copy of Jamie Oliver's Naked Chef, and directed me to page 124, which was The most perfect steamed & roasted duck with honey & oyster sauce. Well, talk about culturally appropriate! I figured that it would be easy as pie to find a fresh whole duck round these parts...

Wrong again! After a couple of weeks of urban hunting, I eventually tracked down a place where I could order the elusive fowl. Since our self-imposed marrow bone random recipe challenge a couple of weeks ago, butcheries no longer intimidate me the way they once did. Unruffled, I ordered online before swanning over to the ritziest butchery I've ever seen in my life to pick up the bird, confidently masking the fact that I knew hee-haw about the massive lump of lardy quacker with my name on it.

I've learned my lesson from previous poultry purchases in Singapore: you get every bit of the bird, and rightly so I suppose. But I'm a rank amateur where heads and feet are concerned, far less flippers and bills, so I asked that fancy shmancy butcher to make sure this duck came ready to roast. And it was. But just in case I changed my mind, they included all the extras in a wee (transparent) baggie and the body still had a generous length of neck attached. This random recipe project is a challenge in more ways than one.

The next problem was that our duck weighed three times as much as the genteel little Barbarys that J to the O recommended. So our cooking times were a bit of a guess. For two <1kg birds, Jamie steams them for an hour and then roasts for 40 minutes. For our single 2.7kg bird, we steamed for an hour and then roasted for an hour, turning and basting with honey and oyster sauce every 10 minutes. That seemed about right but it really is a bit of a faff.

So here's the result. Served this evening shredded, with carrot and cucumber, on wholemeal wraps with plum sauce and the mandatory Tiger beer. We feel like geniuses.

steamed and painted (with 2:1 parts oyster sauce:honey), pre-roasting

ready for some shredding!

the skin was very lovely (though could've used another 10 minutes in parts)

something very satisfying about 'build-your-own' meals

While I was wondering what to do with all the fat (and enough leftovers to feed a garrison) this popped up on a Google search: Nigel Slater's pumpkin and potatoes with duck fat and garlic. Mind you, I'm rather done with the complicated stuff for one week, so perhaps that can wait awhile. I'm going to be hard pressed to resist simply chucking some leftover duck into a bowl of noodle soup with beansprouts and greens for tomorrow night's tea.

Be sure to check in with my RR partner, Sharky Oven Gloves, and see which recipe I randomly chose for her (book number 2, page 42)!


  1. goos lord!... such commitment to the cause!... I love you for this and that duck looks superb... I love crispy shredded duck, I may just have to make this next week... truly beautiful!... thank you so much for taking part, i'm glad you're enjoying it x

  2. oh man that looks so so so good. giving the bayswater roast duck a run for their money, eh? ;) please please do the pumpkin and potatoes in duck fat, it sounds just awesome.

  3. Wow, that looks so delicious! Well done for persevering with the duck adventure!!
    I love I've Never Seen Star Wars - have you listened to Ian Hislop's (from last week I think)?

  4. @Dom: no no, duck lard, not goos lord! I must say, the duck continues to be delicious, how could it be anything else with that amazing colour on the skin. If it's inspired your next roast, I'd have to add that I don't know how much impact the stuffing had on the flavour of the duck, but that simple honey and oyster paint was INCREDIBLE.

    @Shu Han, compliments indeed! I'm going to keep the duck fat in the fridge, and I'll let you know when I get round to the pumpkin... maybe it'll be good for Halloween next week!

    @Mel, I did hear Ian Hislop's INNSW! I thought it was so endearing how proud he was of his first homemade cake ;0)

  5. Save the duck fat for all sorts of things - roasting any root veg in it is wonderful (parsnips and carrots work particularly well) ;)

    Snowboarding is great fun by the way, and you can even get padded trousers to help with the butt breaking ;)

  6. Looks beautiful!!! Roast duck is so sumptious.
    I have never heard INWSW - is it radio 4? Maybe I'll go and iPlayer some of them. Top of my list would be that I have never watched star wars but I have no intention of ever doing so, so there.
    It was my Dad's 65th birthday over the weekend and last night we sat with a group of his friends and chatted about our 'bucket lists" so similar sort of theme. I need to give this more thought.
    Fab post!

  7. Cheers pinkundine - padded trousers sound very wise!

    PDNFTA - yes it's radio 4 (and it's on another channel too, maybe 4extra or something?). Hope your Dad had a super weekend, did you make his cake this year? x

  8. How determined you are to go to all that trouble for the duck! It looks scrumptious, though--totally worth it. Yes, duck is something that would make my "INSSWs" game, too--a game I've never heard of before, but will definitely be playing!! Thanks.

  9. Wow! I love these challenges of yours. That duck looks amazing and I don't even eat meat.

    INSSW sounds like a show I need to look into. I'm already thinking about all the things I've never done or seen.

  10. I listened to the Ian Hislop one while sewing my Halloween costumes the other night - really enjoyed it. Would make a good TV programme - would have liked to see him in jeans. And would have loved to see his cake!

  11. Steph and Lydia - Hope you're having fun figuring out your INSSWs! It's always a great jumping off point for dinner table discussion.

    PNDFTA, I'm sure there was once a series of it on telly, with the same guy at the helm, and it was really good. That's where I saw Nigel Havers getting a tattoo - though as I mentioned - that might have been a fantasy... sorry, dream!

  12. "lardy quacker" - I love it!!!

    The duck looks delicious - it's good to be pushed out of your comfort zones every now and then!!

    I have to say I have no ambition to attend a birth - found it gruesome enough being the active participant!!

  13. Well hello there Brownieville girl! Welcome along!

    But like seriously, are you not just a WEE bit curious to be at the delivery end?! Go on... just a teeny-weeny bit?

  14. Goodness Gracious. I absolutely love, love duck. This just looks fiercely delicious! Oh Yum. My mouth waters looking at the pictures.


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