Tag Archives: duck

Roast Duck in Remembrance (serves 4)

We were invited to dinner yesterday, (the 22nd of March to be exact), to our friend’s house, and I told my friend Celine that of course we would come, but that I had to bring a duck. “But I have a chicken”, she said. I told her that this duck had to be cooked because I had promised a friend that I would cook it as a token to him to honor the 30th anniversary of his mother’s death.

A surprise of sweet crocuses amidst the rubble of winter

A surprise of sweet crocuses amidst the rubble of winter

I feel the passage of time acutely when there is an anniversary of a significant event. The ritual of remembrance of that exact day and time of an event, brings the thing that happened back in a way that makes you feel close to that day all over again. It is on this date that we acknowledge that person or occasion anew, and usually try to do something to honor the day and make it special. It can be happy or sad, or a mixture of both depending on the importance of the milestone and how long ago it happened.

The river Barrow at Milford, County Carlow

The river Barrow flowing through Milford, County Carlow (where I’m from)

I was reminded that the 22nd of March was special to, and by, a very old and dear friend. Some of us would not talk about our very first “real boyfriend” like this, but I am one of the lucky ones who doesn’t cringe with regret and mortification when I think back to my first real attempt at a relationship. Suffice is to say that decades later, (I gulp when I think how many) I am the better for still knowing him. Perhaps living on two different continents doesn’t hurt either (that was a joke!)

Roast Duck with Sage and Bread Stuffing

Roast Duck with Sage and Bread Stuffing

He told me in an email ten days earlier that the 22nd was the 30th anniversary of his mother Margo’s death. I could tell it was a date he had on his mind and he told me that he and his siblings were going to do something special together in her memory. This is such a lovely and wonderful thing that we humans do for our dead. We remember them. When my kids tell me (and it sounds morbid when I say this out loud, but really it doesn’t feel like that) that they will miss me when I am gone, I always say, “I will miss you too” I really mean it, and perhaps when I am dead, and my children get together to think about me specifically for a few hours, it will feel like happiness is in the air for all of us.

 first foal of the year in Mount Juliet's Ballylinch Stud.

First foal of the year in Mount Juliet’s Ballylinch Stud. (photo by Dave, who loves horses and the Horse Races!)

So yesterday, when Dave and his family were together to remember “Mum” I was trying to tie myself to the moment in a very small way by cooking something that Dave said he would like me to cook if he ever popped over for dinner. Okay – I roasted a duck and I was nervous about the whole thing because I really wanted it to turn out delicious. It is easy to mess up roasted fowl, as people tend to dry it out by being nervous about undercooked meat. So, I went extremely traditional and by the book. It worked.


Winter Woods in Thomastown, the place Dave lives (photo by Dave )

I thought about the fact that Dave’s mother may have cooked duck and thought about how she might have gone about it. Thinking about that made me remember that one night I had cooked something quite “game-y’ in her kitchen, a hare, that was a complete disaster. I remember being freaked out about the wildness of it all, and the strong smell in the kitchen. I was more used to the ordinary “farmer” diet of beef and pork. Dave’s house had the air of the “gentleman farmer” about it, mainly because his brother went out regularly to shoot things like pheasant and other birds that were not chickens! I also remember opening the fridge one time and seeing a giant cow tongue sitting on a dinner plate. Yes, I was full sure that duck may well have been an ordinary dish in Mrs. Donohue’s house.

A peek at the garderns of Mount Juliet

A peek at the gardens of Mount Juliet (where those lucky horses live!)

I figured that stuffing it with a simple sage and bread stuffing and then roasting it would be the most appropriate. In trying to stay traditional, I took the neck, giblets, kidneys and heart and made a stock from which I made the gravy. After it came out of the oven and rested, it was the moment of truth. I tasted the meat with a little stuffing and a little swipe of gravy, and, it was amazing; tender, juicy and not a bit of the wildness that may have made me winch and remember that God-awful hare I cooked decades earlier. I brought it over to our friend’s house and as we ate and I thought about the significance of the day, I hoped that there was an extra bit of happiness in the air, just for sweet Margo.


Happy Spring


You will need:

for the bird and stock:

1 5 lb duck (save innards for stock)

1 medium carrot – diced

1 medium onion – quartered

1 small celery rib – sliced

1 bay leaf

2 or 3 sprigs fresh thyme

4 or 5 black pepper corns


3 tbs unsalted butter

1 sm onion – finely diced

1 tbs fresh sage leaves – finely chopped

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tbs freshly ground black pepper

2 cups breadcrumbs

for the gravy:

3 tbs unsalted butter

3 tbs all-purpose flour

21/2 cups duck stock (or canned chicken stock if you are not making the stock form the duck giblets).

salt and black pepper to taste


*If you are going to make stock from the innards for your gravy, you need to do this step 3 hours earlier (maybe in the morning, or the night before, or just put it on 4 hours before you plan to serve)*

1 – Put the innards from the duck, onion, carrot, celery rib and peppercorns into a saucepan and cover with water (about 3 cups). Bring to a slow boil and cover with lid. Turn heat down to a simmer for about 3 hours.


Make stock for gravy

2 – Strain stock through a fine sieve and reserve the stock for making gravy.

srtain solids from liquid

stain solids from liquid

Preheat the oven to 350* (180 celsius).

Make stuffing:

1 – Put butter in saute pan on medium heat and add onions. Cook for about 7 minutes.

cook onions in butter

cook onions in butter

2 – Add sage and cook for another minute before adding the breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Stir everything together and transfer to a bowl and place in fridge to get cold.

sage and bread stuffing

sage and bread stuffing

3 – When stuffing is cold, wash and dry the duck and place in snug roasting pan. Stuff the bird with the sage and bread stuffing and tie the legs together loosely with kitchen string.

stuff and truss duck

stuff and truss duck

4 – Place in oven for 1 hour and 50 minutes. Halfway through cooking baste the bird with the collected juices and fat and continue to cook for the remainder of the time. Remove from the oven and rest for 20 minutes before carving.

rest cooked duck for 20 minutes before carving

Rest cooked duck for 20 minutes before carving

Make gravy:

Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary..

Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary..

1 – Put a saute pan on medium heat and melt the butter. Add the flour and mix to a paste. Cook for about 30 seconds before adding the stock 1 cup at a time. Stir and cook until the gravy thickens. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. *When I tasted my stock, I thought it tasted a bit bland so I added about 1/2 a good quality bouillon cube to my gravy, which added the layer of flavor I was looking for. Just letting you know so you can “doctor” your gravy up until you get it right.

Serve the duck, stuffing and gravy with whatever you want: mashed potatoes and a green vegetable like peas or green beans, or serve with another starch like pasta and some sautéed greens such as spinach or kale.

the river Nore, Thomastown

The river Nore, Thomastown (photo by Dave)

Michaelmas Feast (Slow-Cooked Duck with Braised Winter Squash) Serves 4

It is only today I am getting around to writing about our wonderful dinner this past Thursday (September 29th). It was the feast day of Michaelmas (Michael the archangel) and the reason I wanted to celebrate this particular feast day is because this day was very significant in times past.

Duck for Michaelmas

As well as it heralding the end of harvest, and a time when farmers settled their debts, and assessed what provisions they needed to get them through the winter, I have another reason to remember this feast day.

There is a great story of how on this day the Archangel hurled the devil out of heaven and he landed on a thorny blackberry bush. It was a painful experience and it is said that forever more he comes back to earth and spits on the blackberry fruit. As a result blackberries are never eaten again until next season.

Michaelmas Feast; our dinner

I remember this because one day I brought home a big apron full of blackberries to my mother and she told ne to throw them away for fear of being tainted by the devil and his vile spit! I was petrified to eat them after that. It is a ritual I still adhere to, (just in case).

Lovely purple asters

The official flower of the holiday is the hardy little aster, and so I went out to buy them especially. I truly wanted to get into the spirit and maybe having these flowers as well as cooking a game-y bird would jolt me back to the past where life was certainly simpler.

In very olden days (even before my time), a big grey goose was the traditional dinner. I was not about to try to find one of those, and settled for what I happen to have by sheer luck in the freezer; a 4 lb duck!

Winter squash - perfect pairing with the duck

I also wanted to use a vegetable that had autumn written all over it, and so I used the lovely squash I received in my share box from the local Good Work Farm.

It was a dish that I ad-libbed as I went, and it was more than perfect. I usually roast a duck with mixed results. It behaves so differently to chicken, because the meat is tougher, and the fat content is higher.

I decided to slow-cook it in a covered casserole in a mixture of red wine, broth and basic locally grown veggies (celery, onion, garlic, thyme), and, it was so tender I wished I had a whole duck for myself. I will definitely be cooking it this way next year, and, possibly make a big blackberry pie so as not to waste the last of these gorgeous berries.

A memorable Michaelmas indeed.


You will need: 1 whole duck (I used 4 lbs), 1 onion, diced, 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped, 2 celery ribs, including leaves, sliced, 8 thyme sprigs, 1 cup red wine, 1 1/2 cups chicken or veggie broth, 1/2 tsp sea-salt, several grinds of pepper,

For Squash dish; you will need: 2 winter squash, peeled, scooped & diced, 1 small onion (sweet if you have it), 2 cups chicken broth, 2 tbs rice wine, 1 tbs honey, 1 tsp chopped rosemary, 1/2 tsp salt, several grinds peppers, 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil.

Serving suggestions: basmati rice, boiled & buttered potatoes, penne or shell pasta, green salad.

Preheat oven 325*

duck ready for the oven

1 – Trim extra skin from duck and randomly pierce the skin with a sharp knife. Place onion, celery, garlic, thyme, red wine, salt, pepper, and broth into a heavy casserole dish. Place the duck into the center of the pot and cover with a tight, heavy lid. Cook for 2 hours.

2 – Prep the squash and combine the rest of the ingredients, except the oil, in a bowl.

saute onions, add squash

3 – Put saute pan on medium to low heat and add the oil. When it is warm, add the onions and cook for 7 minutes. Add the squash, salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

add liquid, and cook

4 – Add the liquid and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally until squash is soft (about 30 minutes or so). The liquid will disappear into the squash, so don’t panic. If it gets dry before the squash is cooked, add a little liquid.

5 – When duck is done, take casserole out of oven and let it sit for about 15 minutes to cool. Remove duck to a board and take all the meat from the bones. (discard the skin, or render it down for duck fat).

add duck and liquid to squash

6 – Toss the duck and the duck cooking liquid into the squash and heat everything up.

You can also heat it up with a few slices of cayenne peppers

Serve as is, with crusty bread, or a baguette, or, with serving suggestions above. If making potatoes or pasta, time to be ready when the duck has been shredded.