In the first part of a new series on economical home cooking, top chef Mark Hix demolishes a whole duck.
I’ve written a few times about people buying too much food, not looking after it in the fridge, and it consequently ending up in the bin. I’ve also written many times about getting the most out of a fish, piece of meat or poultry, or vegetable.
With the current situation, it looks like everyone is going to have to do some clever buying and cooking to get every bit of value out of their food, which may be a silver lining of this terrible crisis – for me that’s what food is all about.
In war time, when certain foods were rationed it got people gardening and growing their own and getting creative with food prep. It’s stayed with some and been handed down as a valuable skill. But most of us now buy food like it’s a cheap, mass produced, throw away commodity (which, to be fair, is exactly how it’s marketed and sold by many supermarkets and fast-food outlets).
One example that always gets my goat is the way people are happy to have bags of salad and herbs in their fridge that don’t see a drop of water after they leave the supermarket. How many times have you chucked away a yellowing clump of coriander or rocket? Would you treat a bunch of flowers the same way?
I had a Barbary duck in the freezer, left over from a few I bought from a farm nearby, and I thought this would be a perfect time to show you how to get the most out of your bird, with some interesting and diverse dishes.
When we buy a whole duck or chicken, it tends to get roasted, with the leftovers going in a sandwich the next day or straight in the bin. Well, off the top of my head there are four or five dishes for two that can be eaten during the course of a week, or frozen to serve when required. Traditional French cookery is a good reference for use of a whole duck, including its neck, heart and gizzards. You’ve paid for it, so use it.
First up, I’ll go over how to prepare the bird without wasting any of it. Once you have all the bits and pieces, you can freeze it all separately (make sure to label it) and over the next few weeks I’ll be writing recipes for the whole lot.
How to prepare your bird
• First take a sharp, heavy chopping knife and remove the legs. To do this, hold the bird by its leg and cut towards the joint, then pull the leg away from the carcass by breaking the joint with your hands and cutting it away. Chop the top knuckle off then remove the thigh bone with a point of a knife nearly up to the joint without cutting into the flesh, then push the flesh down from the top knuckle and fold in the flesh where you have just boned the thigh.
• Pack the legs into a small tight fitting saucepan with the gizzards and all the fat and skin you have removed. Put the bones to one side for the stock.
• Remove the breasts by carefully cutting either side of the carcass, keeping the knife as close to the bone as possible, then remove the under-fillets, which lie under the breasts.
• Cut the wings away from the breast, chop them into a few pieces and put them to one side for the stock.
• Remove all of the fat from the carcass and put to one side. Remove the livers and gizzards and neck.
• Remove any bits of meat from the carcass, there will be a good bit and it can be used for a salad along with the under fillets or to meat up the broth once the stock is cooked. Chop the carcass bones up as well as the neck and thigh bones, and put to one side with the other bones for the stock.
• You should be left with 2 breasts, livers and heart, 2 legs for the confit, the bones for the stock, the skin and fat and the under-fillets and meat trim from the carcass.