Two ways to cook wild duck this autumn
With game season in full swing, why not try cooking wild birds on the barbecue?
Duck with orange and juniper go perfectly together. Photograph: iStock
September might seem like a bizarre month to suggest having a barbecue but with game season in full swing, I’m actually looking forward to cooking a few wild birds over smouldering turf, hot coals and birch wood.
The weather recently has simply been outstanding, though that’s not to say it will be good next week. But we must take each day as it comes. And, of course, we need more shops selling wild ducks and other game birds (such as pigeon, woodcock and teal). Think about cranking up the barbecue in the early afternoon, giving it enough time to cool a little, before putting the buttered ducks directly on.
As wild ducks are extremely lean, you’ve got to turn them often. But I find brushing them with melted butter mixed with herbs and salt is all they need. Only cook to 55 degrees as any higher temperature will leave them a tad dry. While the ducks are resting, grill some apples on the barbecue, brushed with apple syrup and vinegar. A handful of watercress is all you need to complete the meal.
How to cook mallard duck with orange and juniper
If autumn barbecues are not your thing, then oven roast duck is just as good. A lovely old recipe I came across while researching the Irish Cook Book combined wild duck with orange and juniper. It’s a really simple recipe: season ducks with salt, pepper and oil, slice a orange into six wedges, and place on a roasting tray with some juniper berries and a good dash of sweet sherry. You can use cider if you don’t have sherry, or even chicken stock will do. Roast at 200 degrees for 20 minutes, or until medium rare.
Wrapping wild ducks in rashers is another way of cooking game birds. The pork fat helps keep the birds moist while cooking. Of course, this technique will also work with pigeon, partridge or grouse. Remember, if all else fails, wrap it in a rasher and pour alcohol over it. That will help any wild bird taste better.