Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Warming up with Duck Rillettes and Mulligatawny Soup

First published Canberra Times 27 July 2011.
As we hibernate and hunker down in the depths of a cold Canberra winter, salmon and lentil salads just don’t cut it for lunches. With some forewarning of visitors arriving for the weekend, I prepare for a Saturday lunch that will sustain the hungry horde until dinnertime. Our visitors are committed funsters, exercise hard and spend much of their time here riding the great bike paths of Canberra.

I take cover indoors from the grey skies and freezing winter winds. I am more than happy to batten down the hatches by preparing the meals, stoking the fire, anything really, just don’t put me in the saddle on days like these.

Having scored some fresh duckling, and not enough time to make a confit, I’m leaning towards the next best thing, duck rillettes. This, combined with some hot and spicy traditional mulligatawny soup with coconut milk, should hit the spot. With a bit of time leftover, I prepare a thermos of cinnamon and malt infused milk, with just a dash of brandy, for fortification purposes, of course.

Rillettes can be taken on a picnic if needed and easily spread on a piece of crostini or sour dough with some baby cornichons. They also make a great TV dinner or a starter to a meal. We had these recently in France as part of a lazy afternoon lunch among the vineyards of Alsace.

Appetites seem to grow in this weather, with gnawing hungers screaming out for rich, weighty foods, steaming soups and hot drinks. Our noisy gaggle returns from their ride, lingering to see what’s on offer. Diving in with helmets, hats and gloves off, the red cheeked mob eat and drink noisily without saying a word. I can only assume this is a sign of approval.

Duck rillettes
3 to 4 duck legs, with thighs attached
sea salt
ground black pepper
4 bay leaves
4 sprigs thyme
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
chopped tarragon
approximately 400g duck fat, melted slightly
70g pistachio nuts, toasted and chopped

Preheat the oven to 150C. Place the duck legs into a roasting dish so they fit snugly together. Sprinkle the garlic, thyme, and bay leaves over the top and season with salt and pepper. Cover the duck legs with duck fat. Roast for 2 ½ hours until the meat is tender and falls off the bone. Allow the duck legs to cool in the dish slightly and lift out onto a plate. Strain the duck fat through a fine sieve and set aside. Shred or chop the meat, discarding the skin. Place the meat in a mixing bowl.
Add the pistachios and tarragon to the duck meat and mix gently. Moisten with a little of the strained duck fat and season to taste. Place the mixture into a jar or dish, pressing down with the back of a spoon and pour a little of the reserved duck fat to cover and seal the top. Refrigerate to set.
Remove the rillettes from the fridge half an hour or so before serving, to allow to come to room temperature. Serve with pickled vegetables, and cornichons on warm crostini or toast.

Mulligatawny Soup
Serves 4
2 onions, chopped
30g butter
sea salt and black pepper
4 tbsp tomato puree
3 tbsp curry powder
2 tbsp plain flour
400ml chicken stock
400ml coconut milk
1 green apple, grated
3 tbsp ginger, grated
chopped coriander
sour cream for drizzle

Melt butter in a large saucepan, add the onions and fry for a few minutes till softened but not coloured. Stir in the tomato puree, curry powder and flour, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Add the ginger and apple, continuing to cook on high heat for a few more minutes.
Add the stock, a little at first, stirring and scraping the caramelisation off the bottom of the pan. Add the remaining stock and coconut milk, and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook until slightly thickened. Add the rice and simmer for another 4 minutes. Season to taste. Serve with chopped coriander and a swirl of sour cream.

Malt and cinnamon toddy
Serves 4
2 cinnamon sticks
1/3 cup malted milk powder
4 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, split open
¼ cup good quality brandy (optional for adults)
Mix a little of the milk with the malted milk powder in a cup till dissolved. Pour the milk and malted milk powder and the remaining milk into a saucepan over low heat and bring to the boil while stirring. Remove the cinnamon sticks and vanilla bean. Add the brandy, pour into mugs and serve.