I am pretty sure "duckherd" isn't a word. And I am reasonably certain the Goosegirls of Grimm's Fairy Tales don't exist as a profession any more - if they ever cared for ducks as well as geese. But if a shepherd looks after sheep and a shepherd's pie is made of lamb, I decided that a duck pie, topped with celeriac mash, had to be a duckherd's pie.
|Skinned duck breasts|
This is a fiddle, because you have to render the duck skin into scratchings and mince the duck breasts, but you can do it in advance to take away the memory of the pain and it ends up tasting delicious. And we have extra pies in the freezer for another day.
Duckherd's Pie (serves 4)
4 duck breasts
2 stalks of celery
1tsp green peppercorns in brine
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup vermouth or white wine
1 small celeriac
2 medium potatoes
2 cloves of garlic
Skin the duck breasts. This is pretty easy - basically just grip the edge of the skin and pull it back, using a sharp knife to coax any membrane away, so you end up with a clean, lean piece of meat and a thick piece of skin with a nice fatty layer.
Slice the fat into 1-2cm wide strips, put in a small saucepan with some cold water and bring to a boil on a medium heat. This will look very unappealing for quite some time as the strips go grey and wrinkled. But then the fat will start to render out and the water will evaporate (it's just there to stop things from sticking while you get going) and eventually you will be left with a pot of clean duck fat and a treasure trove of crisp brown duck scratchings. Drain, reserving the fat. Tip the scratchings onto a paper towel-lined plate and don't eat all of them because you need some for the garnish.
Cut the duck breasts, leeks, celery and carrots into chunks your mincer can manage. I try to keep the pieces a bit separated so I can do the duck first, followed by the veg, because I think it makes the mincer easier to clean.
|Ready for mincing|
|Minced and ready to cook|
The remaining duck fat can go in a ramekin covered with cling film for a couple of weeks of good roast potatoes, or into the freezer for the Christmas spuds.
Divide the mixture between four ovenproof bowls, removing the bay leaves and woody thyme sprig if you come across them. Or make just one large one if you don't have to worry about portion control or there are more than two of you at dinner. I made two to eat that night and two in foil containers for later.
Peel and chop the celeriac and potatoes into even-sized chunks and boil until tender, giving the celeriac a 10 minute head start. Add the peeled garlic cloves in with the potatoes. Drain the veg and mash thoroughly with a good knob of butter.
Spread the mash over the duck ragu. I don't go in for piping that sort of thing but you could if you wanted to. I did try to pretty it up a little bit though. Allow another little nut of butter to melt over the surface of each one, and garnish with a couple of duck scratchings.
Allow the ones you are freezing to cool completely, cover and freeze. The ones you want to eat sooner rather than later will need a 180C oven for 35-40 minutes until the top is well-browned and the filling is bubbling up around the edges. Serve with a simple green vegetable.