There’s something wonderful about the slow cooking process that takes a simple little bit of meat and turns it into something amazing. Just look at Lechon! Or to the humble jerk chicken! This duck/goose recipe is closer to jerk chicken in technique yet keeps the simple flavours of the meat and the rosemary front and centre – no Habanero heat to blow your head off.
This is a Slovakian recipe, lovingly transcribed from her parents’ cookbook (or, more likely, memory) by Lubi, once our au-pair, now living happily in Dundee. We were served this when we visited her family in Slovakia, and have had it for our Christmas meal two years running.
For 7 hungry people, you will need…
1 duck and 1 goose. You want birds that have lived and that have built up a lovely layer of fat. None of these skinny-arsed ducks you usually find in the supermarket. Ask your butcher. If you don’t have a butcher, find one and ask them! You really can’t beat having a tame butcher you can ask for the right meat at the right time – and one that won’t bat an eyelid when you’re asking for trotters to make the jelly for a pork pie or blood to put in a sorpatel.
Salt, pepper, rosemary, water, cabbage, bread.
Begin by jointing the bird/s, salting the meat generously and leaving to stand for 12 hours or more. Overnight is perfect.
Next day, oven to 150C, wash the salt off, place the portions on a baking tray skin side up. You can use a baking tray or a big, shallow pan with a lid if you’ve got one. Sprinkle of salt, generous grate of pepper, sprinkle with finely chopped rosemary.
Add ~0.5l water to the pan. Lid on (or cover loosely with foil), into the oven for 1.5 hours. Relax. Chop some cabbage, knock back the bread you started earlier in the day. Read a chapter or 3 of London Falling.
After 1.5 hours, foil/lid off, jack the oven up to 250C, give it 15-20 minutes to crisp up the skin. You can do this under the grill if you like. Cook the cabbage now.
Serve with freshly steamed cabbage and freshly baked bread. Thick slices of the stuff (the bread, not the cabbage), drizzled with the salty, peppery, herby fat left over in the cooking pan.
Both times we’ve done this for Christmas we’ve had the same genius idea – there’ll be some meat left over for rissoles the next day. And both times we’ve been wrong. Somehow, even if there’s some left on the tray after everyone’s finished, you find yourself wandering past and picking off just one more little piece. Just one more. My, but this is tasty, even when it’s cold. And before you know it, it’s all gone. And you’ve got to figure out what you’re eating on Boxing Day after all.
And if I’ve got anything wrong, Lubi, please let me know!