Olia Hercules’ Festive Duck
4-6 (2-2.3kg Duck) or 6-8 (2.3-2.6kg Duck)
With Kraut & Dried Apricot Stuffing
Professional Chef and Food Writer Olia Hercules’ Christmas Duck recipe is partly influenced by her Mother’s preparation of duck, but also by a Lithuanian stuffed Goose recipe in Anya von Bremzen’s seminal Please To The Table book. Everything about it screams flavour, plus very little effort is required – it all goes into one pan!
You can also use this recipe to create a vegetarian version – just stuff a small pumpkin instead, cover in foil and bake at 180C for 2 hours. This is a great Christmas dish as it takes care of so many elements - all in the same roasting tin. Do feel free to add some spices to the stuffing - some coriander seeds or allspice or a little bit of nutmeg…
Preheat the oven to 220C.
Half or quarter the potatoes and boil them in salted water, bring to boil and cook for 10 minutes or until the edges become a little rough when you drain them in a colander.
If you are using quince, slice it into thin wedges and toss in some lemon juice. If your apples are small, leave them whole, but half the larger ones.
Take duck out of the fridge in advance and pat as dry as you can. The dryer it is the crispier the skin will get. Prick the skin all over with a fork to help release the fat when it cooks.
There are some fatty bits at the back and the neck ends of the duck. Really get as much as you can out - you will need the fat to cook the large amount of cabbage. You can also use a little cooking oil if your duck is unusually svelte and you don’t get enough fat.
Pull the fatty pieces out and put into a large, dry frying or sauté pan. Put the hob on low heat and start rendering the fat.
Meanwhile, get rid of the dry, tough end of the savoy cabbage then slice it fully - including the core (just slice the core very thinly!). When there is enough fat to cover the base of the pan, add the Savoy cabbage and a generous pinch of salt. Raise the heat slightly and cook until the cabbage softens and reduces in volume.
Add the kraut and the dried fruit, cook over a medium heat. Lower the heat and cover with a lid to speed things along, cook for another 5-10 minutes. If it looks a tad dry, add a splash of water. You can pick out the bits of fat if you like, but if you have very little left you may want to just leave it in.
Give the stuffing a taste, depending on how salty your kraut was - you may need a pinch of salt. Add a few grinds of black or white pepper. Let the filling cool – you could take the pan outside and leave it for 10 minutes.
Put the duck into a deep bowl so the bottom cavity is upwards - this will free both of your hands to pack the stuffing in. Scoop the cabbage inside the duck and put it breast side up on a rack which sits over a large baking tin or tray - the largest you have. Rub the duck breast and legs with some sea salt.
Cook for 40 minutes. Then, taking care with handling the hot duck, pour most of the fat from the tray into a bowl (you can use it to cook potatoes another time or make a duck hash the next day). Put the duck back on the rack over the tray and cook for a further 40 minutes. Swap sides, so it browns evenly.
Finally reduce the heat to 190C, put the duck directly on the roasting tray and surround it with the potatoes and apples. Cook for another 30 minutes, turning the potatoes once halfway through.
For more of Olia’s delicious recipes, take a look at her book Summer Kitchens.