This is a lovely meal for Sunday lunch or maybe for Saturday supper. It’s one of those dishes which tastes as though you’ve spent hours slaving over it when in fact it’s very simple and straightforward.
There isn’t a vast amount of meat on a duck compared to a chicken of the same weight, so while this will serve four people at a pinch, you may prefer to cook it for a special (generously proportioned) meal with your significant other and then use the leftovers to make, for instance, an Asian-inspired stir-fry.
The sauce is made from membrillo, or quince paste, best described as a quince jam which has been cooked down until it’s so stiff you can cut it with a knife. It’s very good thinly sliced with cheese but wonderful in this sauce. Duck and membrillo is a marriage made in heaven.
Although historically quince paste was made in Britain it is less common now, so unless you have your own tree and don’t mind being permanently scarred by boiling jam, it’s probably easiest to source it from a Spanish deli. In Spain, membrillo has never gone out of fashion. Smart people.
Honey-Roast Duck With Membrillo Sauce
4.5-5 lb (2-2.25 kg) duck (I used Gressingham)
2 tblspns clear honey
1 tblspn boiling water
For the stock: the duck giblets, 1 onion, 1 carrot, 2 bay leaves, a few black peppercorns
For the sauce: 7 fl oz (200 ml) Marsala (or oloroso sherry or Madeira)
1 dessertspoon of plain flour
7 fl oz (200 ml) duck stock
4 oz (113 g) membrillo
Wipe the duck and remove the giblets. Cut off the wing tips for the stock.
Prick the skin all over with a fork and leave the duck somewhere cool and airy for a few hours or uncovered in the fridge overnight so the skin dries out. (We once spent an hour air-drying a duck with a cool hairdryer and what a waste of time that was).
Preheat the oven to 230C/ 450F/ Gas 8
Rub the duck all over with fine sea salt (about a dessertspoon) and put it, breast side down, on a rack in a roasting tray. Roast for 15 minutes.
Turn it over and roast it for another 15 minutes, until the skin is a deep brown and beginning to crisp.
Turn the oven down to 180C/350F/Gas 4. You’ll need to cook it for another one and a half hours altogether.
After one hour’s roasting time (from when it first went in the oven), pour the duck fat from the roasting tray and set aside (roast your potatoes with it).
Blend the honey with the boiling water and brush it generously over the skin of the duck.
Return to the oven and complete the roasting time, basting two or three times with the honey glaze.
Meanwhile make a stock from the giblets (NOT the liver though – save that for a pate – it’ll make the stock bitter) and wing tips, add the bay leaves, peppercorns and the roughly chopped onion and carrot, add enough water to cover and simmer. Strain, skim off the fat and reduce the stock to 7 fl oz (200 ml).
When the duck is cooked, pour any juice from the cavity back into the roasting tin, remove the bird to a warmed plate, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest while you make the sauce.
Remove most of the remaining fat from the roasting pan. Stir in the flour. Put the tin over a low heat and slowly add the marsala (or sherry or madeira), stirring continuously to avoid any floury lumps.
Simmer for a few minutes then add the duck stock and membrillo, cut into small chunks. Melt the membrillo and reduce the sauce to your desired consistency.
Carve the duck and serve with the sauce drizzled over. Excellent with roast potatoes cooked in the duck fat and fresh garden peas with a hint of mint.