As you may know from my kitchen adventures with rabbit, I am lucky enough to be provided occasionally with some game from the farm at home, and when my parents came to visit last week they brought three wild teal that had been shot from over the game pond. A teal is a small duck, barely larger than a pigeon – I had never tasted this meat before but I expected it to be similar in flavour to normal duck yet richer due to its natural wild diet and lifestyle.
But what was I to do with these tasty birds? Rich meat flavours are known to be well complimented by sweet fruit, often with an acidity which cuts through the savouriness. Take pork and apple sauce, or beef and redcurrant jelly; two classic examples. A traditional partner to duck is orange, as in the classic French dish duck a l’orange. Traditional dishes like this are considered classic for a reason; because they taste great! Although they may be seen by some as old fashioned when served in restaurants today, I think there is merit in exploring tried-and-tested flavour combinations. At work we do a “toffee apple” sauce by making a dry caramel then adding apple juice and some reduced veal jus to get an amazing savory-and-sweet toffee apple flavour. I wanted to try the same thing but with orange juice, and make a stock from the teal to add to the sauce instead of veal jus. For this dish I used almost all of the bird; the breasts were removed and set aside while I used the carcass, legs, heart and neck to make a delicious stock. It is a satisfying feeling to know that you’re using all of the animal and that nothing is being wasted. This is as it should be (I did a similar thing with my lapin a la moutard recipe, another classic dish). I served the teal with finely shredded savoy cabbage and fondant potato. The fondant is easy; simply cut a flat cylinder out of a large potato (Maris Piper is ideal) using a round cutter. Brown the top and bottom in a hot pan with oil. Now poach the fondant in clarified butter in the oven at about 150C until just cooked through. Remove and drain on kitchen towel. You may refrigerate these until needed and reheat in the oven to serve.