Autumn has well and truly arrived. I am loving the cooler days and the abundance of produce at the markets – chestnuts, apples, grapes, figs. There is something old worldly about Autumn. However when I usually think of Easter, it is more the food in season in the Northern Hemisphere which springs to mind, pardon the pun. Here and now I am wanting to serve more hearty food, things that are warming and comforting. I never really thought about it until this year – have I always been thinking of Spring when it has been Easter? Maybe, but not this year.
I've made this wonderful roast duck rubbed in a heady mix of juniper and sea salt. Once I crush the Juniper berries, I almost immediately want a gin and tonic in my hand. Juniper's distinct pine needle aroma is the flavour of gin. (Recently we've been drinking this one from Kangaroo Island and it is so amazing).
But, back to the duck, it is roasted for a rather long time, probably longer than you may like, but I think the flavour of the duck comes through so much more this way. It is not pink, but more falling away from the bone and all the fat has rendered, leaving you with wonderfully crispy skin. Try and find fresh bay leaves, their flavour is incomparable with the dried stuff. The house across the road has a big tree which hangs over the fence – I just pinch a few when needed. In fact there are often lots around, so have a wander and see. The apples go all sticky and roasted and become infused with scent of bay. If you can't find duck or prefer not to cook with it, a rack of pork would be a wonderful substitute here.
Before the duck, I would serve small portions of my tomato and porcini pasta from a few weeks ago, but perhaps with some beautiful fresh tagliatelle.
10 dried juniper berries
1tbsp sea salt flakes
3 apples, quartered
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
200ml dry white wine
6 fresh bay leaves
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Ensure the duck is completely dry by patting it with paper towel or allowing it to sit in the fridge, uncovered, for 1 hour.
Sit the duck in a deep roasting tray and set aside. Pound the juniper berries in a mortar and pestle then add in the salt. Continue to pound until the salt and juniper is all combined then rub the juniper salt all over the duck.
Arrange the apples and garlic cloves around the base of the tray, then pour in the wine. Nestle in the bay leaves, ensuring they are covered with some of the liquid or else they will scorch in the oven.
Cook for 1 hour at 200C then reduce the temperature to 170C and continue to cook for 45-50 minutes or until tender and the skin is crispy.