This Month's Recipe...
December – Potted Duck with Chestnuts
From page 108 of The New English Table.
A lidded dish of potted meat – similar to a paté – in the fridge will take care of all those hurried lunches and suppers when 'can't be bothered' is the thought overriding cooking dinner. It is a humble meal made of cheaper cuts, but a masterpiece to look at and full of dulcet meatiness: the pink layers of different textures, the studs of spice or nuts and fruit, and the flavours that set in deep after slow cooking and a day's storage. It is smart enough to serve for dinner, with a piquant chutney, pickles or fruit jelly, but it is honest and ordinary enough to stick a slice between 2 pieces of buttered bread.
There are various potted meats in The New English Table (see pages 296, 325, 356 and 452) but this one concentrates on duck, working without pork, which is the usual mainstay of potted meats. This does mean it is more extravagant to make but if you use meat from duck legs, which are usually cheap (all the price is in the huge boneless breast), it will go a long way for relatively little. To make lighter work, ask the butcher to prepare the meat for you.
8 Duck legs, skinned, the meat taken off the bone (reserve the skin and cut it into thin strips)
225g/8oz duck livers, very finely chopped
1 wineglass of dry sherry
30g/1oz softened butter
20 vacuum-packed cooked chestnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon green peppercorns
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Cut half the duck leg meat into strips and mince the rest (if you do not have a mincer, chop it into 5mm/¼ inch pieces). Put the mince and duck livers into a bowl with half the sherry, put the strips of duck in another bowl with the rest of the sherry and leave both to marinate for 1 hour.
Use the softened butter to grease a terrine dish, 750ml-1 litre/1¼-1¾ pints in capacity, and lay thin pieces of duck skin in a criss-cross pattern over the base. Put half the duck mince mixture into the terrine. Lay half the chestnuts on top, followed by the strips of marinated duck and the green peppercorns; add another layer of chestnuts, then finish with the remaining duck mince mixture.
Cover with foil, place in a roasting tin containing 2cm/¼ inch of boiling water and bake for 1¼ – 1½ hours. When it is done, the meat will shrink away from the sides of the dish. Remove from the oven, place a weight on top (2 cans of tomatoes will do) and leave to cool, then refrigerate.
Serve sliced, with buttered toast, pickles, or green leaves dressed with walnut oil.