My, what a surprise package this turned out to be. I picked up a mallard from the butcher because he happened to have them in stock, but with no real idea what to do with it.
Mallard is wild duck and is quite different to cook and eat than the big fatty ducks we’re used to. And yes at around £6-£7 a bird, it’s not cheap (although its cheaper than steak for two). It’s as lean as Bradley Wiggens with not a spare ounce of fat. The flavour is still deep and rich though.
I’ve eaten it before, but mostly in chestnutty stews. This what’s-in-the-fridge driven combination was quite new. And as it turns out, quite delicious. The fruit gives the meat a quite summery flavour and – along with the pancetta – stops it from drying out. The end result is deeper, stronger and less cloying dish than its chubby ducky relation. And yet it isn’t particularly gamey at all.
You could have some fun trying out different fruit with the duck. While soft stone fruit such as plums, peaches and mango probably work best, I’m considering roasting it with some grapes next. You could also add a squeeze of lemon or orange and half a star anise to proceedings as well.
Roast mallard with peaches
Serves two, three if you’re being stingy
5 rashers of pancetta (or Parma ham, streaky bacon etc)
1 onion – finely sliced
2 ripe peaches – peeled and cut into wedges
1 clove garlic – finely sliced
Some melted butter
A spoon of honey
Heat the oven up to 170C. Mix the peaches, garlic and onion together in the bottom of an oven-proof dish just big enough for the mallard. Pour over a little melted butter and the honey, then season with plenty of black pepper and a little salt.
Spread the rest of the butter over the breast of the mallard and cover it with the pancetta/bacon. Roast in the oven for 45 mins.
Remove the pancetta, score the skin of the breast and sprinkle over the cayenne, some sea salt and pepper. Roast for another ten minutes at 200C. Then rest covered in foil for 5-10 minutes.