Money saving Duck methods

Duck is delicious. Sadly, it’s not cheap. But there are ways to make it less expensive.

Buy a whole duck. A whole Gressingham duck currently sells for about £9.

Meanwhile, two duck breasts cost £8, and two duck legs cost £4.50 or thereabouts.

A whole Gressingham duck, removed from the packaging.

Here’s a whole duck. I’ve pulled the plastic bag of giblets out, and put them in the stock pot, along with the wing tips. There will be more in the pan soon….

Giblets and other bits, waiting for me to make duck stock.

Now, with a very sharp knife, and considerable caution, I have cut one breast off the duck. Not very tidy knife-work, but I’m out of practice…

The duck with one breast cut off.
THe other breast’s gone, and so has this leg.
Here are two legs, and two breasts. £12.50 already, from a £9 duck.

Eventually, one ends up with two duck breasts and two duck legs, for the freezer. When I have collected four legs, I will make confit duck legs.

The duck breasts seem to be smaller than the ones they sell separately. My guess is that they use their biggest ducks for the portions, and sell the smaller ones whole.

Bits of duck, about to become stock.

The rest of the carcase just gets broken up, submerged in water, and boiled for a while, resulting in a delicious stock. What can I use that for, you ask?

Well, I used it for ramen. There wasn’t quite enough duck meat on the carcase for this, so I quickly cooked a couple of chicken thighs, you can see it at the top of the bowl. This was a lovely dish for a cold, wet evening…

A bowl of ramen.

The comments on recipe pages…

Sure, I find recipes online, and sometimes I change things when I don’t have the full list of ingredients. That’s normal, surely? But then there are these people…

“One lemon is sufficient. I added a big bunch of kale at the end as I felt it needed some green. I roasted the squash then added to the pan. I added almonds with the coriander at the end to give a bit of crunch. I made my own harissa paste using chipotle. Nice meal with a depth of flavour.”

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/squash-chicken-couscous-one-pot

This was a “one pot” recipe. If you want kale with it, serve it separately. Of course, you’ve defeated the one-pot-ness of it, but this really won’t taste good if you shove kale in it. And the squash was supposed to disintegrate to make the sauce, but you’ve got nice crustly lumps of squash. Did it even need “a bit of crunch”, what with being a stew and all that implies?

Also, you can’t make harissa with chipotle. You’ve made some sort of chipotle sauce.

Some of the comments are a lot more sensible.

5 stars from us, followed the recipe to the letter and really liked the freshness the lemon brought to it …. Like a tagine but without using expensive preserved lemons. Portions are huge, this made 6 generous portions so some bonus portions for the freezer 😊

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/squash-chicken-couscous-one-pot

Now, call me greedy (OK, I am), but two chicken breasts doesn’t seem particularly generous for six people. I suppose one reason for recipes like this IS to feed more people with less meat, though.

However, if you put cut up a lot of lemons and put them in a big jar with salt, you’ll find preserved lemons are actually not expensive. And they’re brilliant in a tagine! https://doctor-dark.co.uk/blog/lamb-tagine/

Cooking temperatures

I had a little rant, a while ago, about the bizarre ways some recipes tell us to judge temperatures. https://doctor-dark.co.uk/blog/weird-stuff-in-recipes-part-94/

Many of them involve testing the temperature of hot oil by dropping in a cube of bread, and noting how long it takes to turn “golden”, which is generally described as being around thirty seconds. The size of the cube of bread is rarely, if ever, given. I wonder how many cubes of bread have been wasted in this way? My solution was to buy a cheap electronic thermometer, or perhaps even a quite good one, as the less cheap ones tend to give a reading more quickly.

If you’ve eaten at a commercially run barbecue, for instance, you will have seen the cooks poking a quick reading thermometer into the food, to see if it can safely be eaten, or will cause illness.

I was reminded of this, when I looked up labna/labneh in Claudia Roden’s “The Book of Jewish Food” recently.

The idea of poking your little finger in the food, and trying to keep it there while counting to ten (and how fast?) when the food is hot enough for it to “sting” is somewhat disturbing.

And don’t try this with hot oil! It will do more than just sting…

Roden, C. (1999). The Book Of Jewish Food. New York: Alfred A Knopf, Inc.

Butter chicken wars

An Indian court is going to hear claims from two restaurants, as to which of them is entitled to claim they invented butter chicken.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/jan/25/indias-courts-to-rule-on-who-invented-butter-chicken

In our recipe book collection, we have several recipes that are called butter chicken, here are just two…

Two recipe books with different butter chicken recipes.
Two recipe books with different butter chicken recipes.

I don’t know whether either restaurant has a valid claim, but if Rick Stein is right, it’s pretty much a standard Amritsari way to cook the beasts.

Labna for mezze

I wanted to make labna, the soft cheese popular in the Middle East. Basically, it’s strained yoghourt. It would clearly be expensive to make it from good shop yoghourt, like Fage, at about £5 for a 900g tub, our favourite from Greece, so I decided to start making my own. Cue intensive internet “research”…

It turns out that Lakeland are selling the Easiyo yoghourt maker for half price, which I took to be an auspicious omen. The internet says the charity shops of the country are full of the things, because people get fed up with buying the ready-made powder the makers want you to keep buying, but I got myself a clean new one, for about £10.

The internet kindly pointed out that I wouldn’t need to go to all the bother of heating the milk to a certain temperature, and then cooling it before adding a live starter. Instead, I’m using UHT milk, which somebody else has heated, cooled, and put in a handy box.

So, I put UHT milk and a couple of spoonfuls of Yeo Valley organic natural live yoghourt in the inner jar, filled the youghourt maker with boiling water, put it all together, and left it overnight.

Putting the yoghourt I made into cheesecloth

The result was a good, set, yoghourt. Not very solid, but tasty. The next step was to put it in cheesecloth, and strain it. There’s three layers of cheesecloth in the picture, as I thought even quite thick yoghourt might run through it, but one turns out to be enough.

Labna, with the whey that came out of it.

Now, the Mezze book says one of the things I can do with labna is make little balls, and keep them in olive oil, in the fridge, ready for use. I had a go, but only made a few, before deciding that the process was too messy, and wasteful. The rest has gone back into the fridge to dry out some more.

Rick Stein’s cookery books

Now that I think about it, these are so very much more than just recipe books. They’re works of art in themselves, with terrific photography. Not just the photographs of the food itself, but the pictures of the places Rick has visited. Mind you, some folks will feel cheated when they find just how many pages are sumptious photographs, rather than recipes, perhaps.

The fish and shellfish book, as you would expect from somebody with world-famous fish restaurants, has an excellent section on the methods used to make the various dishes. Want to know how to dismantle a crab? It’s there, with clear pictures. All of his books have thoughtful descriptions of the destinations, their cultures, and anecdotes about the people Rick met, who cooked dishes from him.

Secret France, Road to Mexico, Fish and Seafood, India… I use them all.

But, I say, Rick! Using the same picture in two books? I thought I was suffering from déjà vu… Both the Fish book and India have a picture of Amritsar fish. One is zoomed in a little, but…

The same photograph in two of Rick Stein’s books.

Adventures with Bread, part 94

 Rye bread, again…

You know how it is. There’s a recipe on the flour bag, and you think you’ll try it out. Well, you know, rye bread is tasty…
 
Rye bread recipe from the back of a rye flour bag.
Cotswold Flour’s Rye Bread recipe.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Last night, I made the poolish, and it was lovely and frothy by morning. I got the mighty Kenwood Chef out, with its dough hook, and followed the recipe carefully, all the way up to the bit telling me to prove it for 1.5 to 2 hours. After an hour, I found this situation…
 
Almost invisible bread tin, with dough rising madly, and flopping over the sides of the tin.
Underneath this over-excited dough, you can just about see the bread tin.
That’s a pretty standard sized loaf tin, but it makes a change for a rye dough to rise so well. I scooped as much of it up as I could, and put it all in a bigger tin, which I put in the oven before I remembered to take a picture.
 
The same amount of dough, in a bigger, shallower tin, in the oven.
Baking begins…

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Then it was time to take the spaniels for their first walk of the day. Luckily, I didn’t meet anyone, and was back in time to remove the tin from the oven, and see what I had created.
 
Big, flat loaf, baked.
The result of 40 minutes in the oven, at 220°C
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The obligatory crumb shot.
This is called the “crumb shot”. Pretty good crumb, if you ask me.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
And there’s the result. I buttered the slice, and ate it, in the interests of science. It has a good flavour, and I’m looking forward to the rest of it, over the next couple of days. I can’t help thinking I should have had some pastrami ready to go on it…
 
 
 

Tofu squeezing

Tofu – a thing you need to know…

I tried cooking tofu several times, and was often very disappointed by the way it just broke up, and fell apart, when I tried. The results I got were nothing like the lovely illustrations people put by their recipes. Instead of pert, bouncy cubes of tofu, all I got was mush…


It tasted fine, sure, but something was wrong


There’s something they don’t tell you in those recipes, and it’s this. Tofu is basically ground up soybeans, and water. Actually, quite an astonishing amount of water! There are several grades of tofu, and the ones labelled “extra firm” have less water. Less, sure, but still a lot. You want to know how much? Look!

I treated myself to a tofu press from eBay, ignoring the ones with a wimpy little spring to do the pressing. It came with a piece of cheesecloth to wrap the tofu block in, which I did, but I had to find a usable weight. I did try balancing cans on top of the press, but eventually, I found my wife already had a suitable weight for the job…

Tofu in a press with a 6Kg weight on it and a jug with the water that squeezed out of the block.
Those standard size boxes of tofu contain over 175ml of water! Get it out, and you can cut the tofu into cubes, marinate it in something tasty, which will soak right into where the water used to be, and fry them without them falling apart. Instead, they crisp up nicely on the outside, and more importantly, they stay together as cubes.


Feel free to thank me…


Duck and Mushroom ramen.

 

Duck and fancy mushroom ramen

Well, it’s what I made from the remains of the Sunday dinner duck, with the addition of some fancy mushrooms, home-made naruto and more.

There’s no helpful tip, or anything like that, with this post, so you really shouldn’t


Can you cook Whitebait in an air fryer?

Can you cook Whitebait in an air fryer?

I just asked Google for the answer to this, and was annoyed to find that not only did there not seem to be an online answer, but there were an irritatingly large number of websites that posed the question, and then answered an entirely different one.

I gave up looking, and instead carried out a scientific experiment…

Some frozen whitebait

Here are some frozen little fishes…

Basically, I just heated the air fryer to its maximum, nominally 200°C, and threw the fishes in.

Five minutes seemed like a good guess for a cooking time. They were a bit underdone.

I set the timer for another five minutes, but pulled the fish out after four minutes, as I could hear some of them popping!

Cooked Whitebait fresh from the air fryer
Here are five of them, nice and crispy on the outside, just before I ate them with tartare sauce.

So, now you know…

You CAN cook whitebait in an air fryer.
 

 

 

 

 

 

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