Mallard in red wine, herb and cream sauce


Wild duck in red wine with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

I think mallards are beautiful. The male mallard with its green and blue shiny bits that is. The poor lady mallard is a bit drab. But they look like wonderful mums calmly floating around with the tiny ducklings in a tight little cloud behind them.

There is something sympathetic about these birds although I read somewhere  about their mating habits. Not very sympathetic, but we will not delve into that. There's enough evil in the world without waterfowl turning all gangrapey. So I will forget I ever read that.

Mallards look like they've got it all sorted somehow. Calm and philosophical. They're probably just too stupid to realise that they've got nothing sorted. At least if the three ducks we had as pets when I was a kid are anything to go by. Stupid as boots, as we say in Finland.

A thoughtful mallard pondering all manner of things.
I have hundreds of photos of mallards. I am not taking any more lest husband send me to psychiatric care. I had a brief fling with photography and bought a really nice digital SLR and some very expensive lenses. I then put on my camouflage gear and went to the wilderness to stalk some wild animals. So mainly squirrels and mallards in Kensington gardens and Regents Park.

I should actually dig out the SLR, it's probably somewhere with my horse riding gear, roller blades and other relics of abandoned hobbies. I am not a very talented photographer (or horse woman or rollerblade babe). That became clear early on, but it's fun.

This is the first time I have cooked or eaten mallard. Actually not 100% sure of the eating part, mum used to feed us all sorts of things without telling us what we were eating, including the aforementioned clueless pet ducks.

So a few weeks ago a couple of friends were visiting from abroad and whilst they were doing their tea and chocolate shopping at Harrods Food Hall I nipped to the meat counter and bought a mallard and some rabbit legs. More about the legs maybe later depending on how I get on with them.

I resorted to some Finnish recipes that I found online. I also consulted my dad. His father hunted and dad being a bit of a girls blouse hung out with his mum in the kitchen rather than join his dad in more manly pursuits remembered how grandma used to cook wild duck and gave me good advice.

I actually felt a bit sad for the poor little bird. I could see where she'd been shot and a shot ended up in my mouth. Husband being even a bigger wuss was quite turned off by this obvious sadness of the little bird's fate (I don't know if he thinks the chicken and lamb we eat have just peacefully died in their sleep of natural causes), so I'm not sure how much mallard cooking I will do in the future. A shame because it turned out fantastically tender and tasty with the awesome creamy red wine sauce.

Mallard in red wine and cream and herb sauce

Slow cooked mallard in red wine sauce (serves 2)

1 mallard
sea salt
black pepper 
1 apple
1 onion
Fresh parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
1/2 cup stock
1/2 cup red wine
1/3 cup single cream
3/4 tbsp flour

Preheat the oven to 175C.

Rinse the bird inside and out carefully. Pat it dry, season with crushed sea salt and black pepper.

Peel and core the apple, peel the onion. Cut both into chunks. Fill the duck with a sprig of rosemary, a few sprigs of thyme and parsley, some sage leaves and the apple and onion chunks. If you haven't been to Scarborough fair recently feel free to go with any herbs of your choice.

Heat a generous knob of butter and a splash of vegetable oil in a dutch oven or similar oven proof lidded pan. Brown the bird on all sides. Pour in the stock and red wine. Bring to boil, add a sprig of rosemary and a frew sprigs of parsley and thyme and a few sage leaves in the sauce.

Cover and place in the oven. Turn and baste the bird every 20 minutes.  Bake for 1 1/2 - 2 hours until the meat is tender.

Take the bird out and wrap in foil and leave to rest. Sieve the sauce into a sauce pan and boil it down a little. Mix the cream and flower together and add to sauce pouring it in slowly while continuously mixing the sauce. Cook for about 5 minutes, check the taste and add seasoning if necessary. If too thick, add cream or water. If too thin let it boil uncovered for a few minutes more.

Take the bird from foil. Remove the legs and breasts. Cut the breasts in slices, and serve with the sauce. You can serve the meat and sauce separately. I placed the meat on a serving dish and poured the sauce over it.

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