Monday, 24 November 2014

Mallard roasted on ciabatta with smashed borlotti beans, braised leg and liver, cavolo nero and truffle

We’re now bang in the middle of game season, which means it’s time to branch out from the usual beef, chicken, pork and lamb and have a go at something different. I’m usually terrible at taking advantage of this glut of alternative meat, but this year I’ve really made an effort and have already cooked with pheasant, grouse and wild rabbit. Although the often stronger, livery flavour puts a lot of people off, I personally love a bit of game and will always jump at the chance to buy it from a butcher or order it when eating out. The flavours work so well with other autumnal ingredients, be it sweeter squashes, beets and sweetcorn or bitter cabbage leaves and earthy mushrooms. 

This dish, like many of my better ones, happened by chance. It certainly wasn’t the result of a long-conceived and adjusted recipe; it all came together very quickly. I was strolling through Marylebone on the way home from town, and being a rare visitor to the area I thought I would take advantage and have a quick snoop around. Moxon Street was like my foodie heaven, with the delightful smell of cheese wafting out of La Fromagerie and the impressive glass-lined hanging room in The Ginger Pig, lined with blackened aged-foreribs and porterhouses. It was whilst in the butchers that I spied the mallard, and not often seeing them around I just had to take it. Back in London Fields and a quick trip to the local E5 Bakehouse for a huge slab of ciabatta and the local greengrocers saw me ready to go.
Ever since I had the chicken roasted on bread at Rotorino in Dalston I’ve wanted to have a go at something similar. It was such a fantastic dish, and the fact that I still have it at the front of my mind months after eating it is tribute alone. The end result is something similar to posh fried bread, all laden with the roasting juices and olive oil. To accompany the bird and the bread, I made a very savoury, earthy and thick stew out of the beans, the braised leg meat and the livers. Combined with the fairly sweet sauce it really brings depth to the dish. 

Serves 2 


For the mallards: 

2 plump mallards, legs removed and crowns trimmed 
2 long thin slices of fresh ciabatta 
2 cloves of garlic, sliced 
8 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked 
2 tbsp butter 

For the braised mallard legs and sauce: 

The legs and trimmings from the mallard 
4 shallots, finely sliced 
3 garlic cloves, crushed 
1 tbsp soft brown sugar 
1 carrot, diced 
1 leek, sliced 
5 sprigs of thyme 
1 bay leaf 
A good splash of brandy 
1ltr chicken stock 

For the smashed borlotti beans: 

6 tbsp cooked borlotti beans including the cooking liquid 
2 cloves of garlic, grated 
4 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked 
½ a shallot, finely chopped 
4 chicken livers, cleaned and diced 
The picked braised leg meat from the mallards 
¼ lemon, juice only 
Extra virgin olive oil 
A few gratings of black truffle  

For the roasted shallots:
2 shallots, quartered lengthways 
1 tbsp butter 
1 tbsp olive oil 
5 sprigs of thyme
For the cavolo nero: 

4 large cavolo nero leaves, thick stems removed 
1 tbsp butter
To finish:
A few gratings of black truffle 
Extra virgin olive oil 

First braise the legs of the mallard. Heat a heavy saucepan to a medium-high temperature and add a little olive oil. Fry the mallard legs quickly to brown well on all sides, then transfer to a plate. Repeat with all of the trimmings from the bird until well coloured. Turn the temperature down slightly and tip in the shallots, garlic, thyme and sugar and fry for about 15 minutes, or until softened and golden. Add the other vegetables and herbs and continue to cook for another few minutes. Turn the heat back up and add the brandy, burning off the alcohol and de-glazing the pan. Top up with the stock and return the mallard legs and trimmings to the pan. Bring to a simmer, then cook very gently for about 2 hours, or until the leg meat is tender. Remove the legs from the stock and shred the meat off the bones. Set aside until needed later.
Strain the rest of the stock and discard the carcass and vegetables. Pour the liquid into a smaller pan and set to a high temperature. Reduce until only a small amount of thick sauce remains, about 150ml. Cover and keep warm until needed. 

Pre-heat the oven to 160⁰C.
Put the quartered shallots into a small baking dish and toss in the olive oil, seasoning and thyme. Dot the butter around and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, or until really soft and slightly charred at the edges. Peel the shallot layers into individual petals and set aside.
For the borlotti beans, add a little olive oil to a saucepan and set to a medium-high temperature. Season the chicken livers and then fry quickly for about two minutes or until golden brown on the outside and still pink in the middle. Transfer to a side plate. Lower the heat, add the shallot, garlic and thyme and soften for a few minutes. Add the borlotti beans and liquid along with the braised leg meat, season well and gently cook for about 15 minutes. Return the livers to the pan and roughly smash the contents against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon. Finish with the lemon juice, a tablespoon of the reduced sauce, two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a few gratings of the black truffle. Keep warm until needed. 

Raise the oven temperature to 200⁰C.
While the borlotti beans are cooking roast the mallards. Pour some oil into a non-stick frying pan and set to a medium-high heat. Season the inside and outside of the birds and sear quickly on each breast for 1-2 minutes, then add the butter to the pan, turn the birds breast-side up and baste really well. Lay the ciabatta slices onto the bottom of an oven dish and top with a little extra-virgin olive oil, the slices of garlic, seasoning and the thyme leaves. Place the browned mallards on top of the bread, pour over the pan juices and roast for 10-12 minutes, basting every few minutes. When cooked, transfer the mallards to a chopping board to rest for 10 minutes. Pick the garlic off the ciabatta and return the bread to the oven for a few minutes to crisp up slightly.
Re-heat the pan used to sear the mallards and add the butter for the cavolo nero. When melted, add the leaves, a bit of seasoning and a splash of water and fry for a couple of minutes until slightly softened.
While the mallard is resting also reheat the other elements of the dish if necessary.
To serve up, spoon a good amount of the smashed beans onto each piece of ciabatta and place one on each plate. Top with some of the cavolo nero leaves. Carve the mallards and arrange the breasts around the bread. Finish with some of the slow-roasted shallot, a generous spoonful of the sauce, some extra virgin olive oil and more grated truffle.

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