Gravy can be tricky. Some days when I
make it, it works like a charm – a dark, meaty sauce that soaks into
the roast potatoes and turns greens into the food of the gods. Other
days, it’s a disaster, flavourless and dull.
What will really transform your gravy
into something truly wonderful are a few basics: a solid,
heavy-bottomed roasting tray, a splash of something sharp like booze
or vinegar, some good stock, and finally a decent piece of meat.
The stock secret is an easy one to
solve as you’re usually making the gravy while boiling veg, just pour
in the vegetable water. This tastes better than a stock cube. The
soft sweetness you get from carrots will permeate right through.
With a rather fatty bird like duck, the
meat juices need something tart to sharpen things up a bit. Some of
the best results happen from the lack of one ingredient or another,
and no booze at a friend’s house led to the addition of some balsamic
vinegar. This, coupled with the juices squeezed out of the lemons
stuffed in the duck cavity, gave the ‘bite’ required.
Then just add some delicious damson jam
- a good one will melt into it, cheap stuff will result in a sauce
full of little rubbery lumps – and you’ve got a beautiful gravy,
redolent of the sweet and sour hints so perfect with duck,
Roast duck with damson gravy
Ingredients (Serves 4)
- 1 whole duck with giblets
- 1 lemon
- 1 carrot
- 1 head garlic
- 3 or 4 large potatoes
- 3 tbs balsamic vinegar
- 1 or 2 tbs plain flour
- 2 tbs good damson jam
- cooking water from vegetables
Pre-heat oven to 180ºC. Remove
giblets from duck. Chop carrot into small-ish pieces, about a
centimetre or so across, and pop them in roasting tray. Slice through
garlic bulb sideways, cutting off top and exposing cloves. Add this
to the tray along with duck’s neck which will be in the bag of
giblets. Halve lemon and stuff it inside duck.
Put duck upside-down on a roasting rack
in same dish – a cooling rack would suffice. Place it in the oven and
prepare potatoes. Peel, cut into large-ish pieces and par-boil for
ten to 15 minutes. Drain and set aside for a few minutes.
When the duck has been in the oven for
about half an hour, take it out and spoon potatoes around it. There
should be a fair bit of duck fat in pan. Turn potatoes in fat and
then return tray to oven. After about an hour and a half take it out
and pop duck on a plate to rest and put potatoes in an oven-proof
serving dish. Turn oven off and put them back in to keep warm. Boil
whatever veg you are using in some salted water.
Pour all bar a couple of tablespoons of
fat from duck into a bowl and put aside for another day. Put tray on
a low-ish heat on hob. When it starts to sizzle sprinkle in flour and
scrape bottom of pan with a wooden spoon, to mix in sticky, gooey
bits. Cook for a few mins until flour goes dark. Splash in vinegar
and stir. Squeeze juice from the lemons into the pan. Add vegetable
water a few spashes at a time. Turn up heat and let bubble
ferociously for a minute or two. Add jam, stirring until it is
dissolved. Finally, add a little more water until you achieve the
right consistency – everyone likes it differently! A delicious,
fruity, slightly different gravy for your roast.