Weekend Cooking

It’s probably very dull and predictable that I almost always go food shopping on a Friday to get what we need for the weekend.  I know I’m not alone in this because I invariably bump into friends doing the same thing.  In fact, Waitrose can be a very sociable place on a Friday morning!

Sometimes meals have been planned and I’ve drawn up a shopping list of ingredients (on my phone – I add to it throughout the week), but some weeks I hope I’ll be inspired by something I see at the butcher’s or in the supermarket.  Last Friday was one of those times.  I bought duck breasts, half a shoulder of lamb and a kilo of minced beef in case I changed my mind about the duck breasts.  When in doubt, make a bolognese or a chilli, is my motto.  The mince is now in the freezer and I slow-roasted the lamb on Sunday.

Duck Breasts 

Because we were going to be watching the Six Nations rugby on Saturday afternoon, I wanted to keep my duck breast recipe simple.  I used two duck breasts for three of us.  If your duck breasts are as large as ours were, you need less than a whole one per person.

Score the fat of your duck breasts and season.  Peel and cut into cubes one medium potato per person and place in a roasting tin in a single layer.  Place the breasts in a cold, non-stick frying pan on the Aga simmering plate (conventional: medium heat) skin side down.  Cook for 8 minutes, pouring the fat as you go along into the roasting tin into which you’ve placed the potatoes.  It would be sensible to line the tin with bake-o-glide (I forgot) because the potatoes might stick a little (as mine did).

After the 8 minutes, place the now golden breasts skin side up on a rack over the potatoes in the roasting tin and cook in the roasting oven (conventional 220ºc) for a further 15 minutes for a pink centre.  If you prefer them well done, increase this time by 5 minutes or so.  Make sure all the delicious fat from the frying pan has gone into the roasting tin.

While this is happening put the frying pan back on the simmering plate and add about a glass of red wine and a little stock (whatever you have to hand; I used Marigold Swiss vegetable bouillon powder).  Let that bubble and thicken a little and then stir in some redcurrant jelly until melted.  I’m not giving you quantities here.  Just think of how many people you are serving; all you need is a little jus to pour over.

Pour the jus into a jug and keep this at the back of the Aga, take the duck breasts out of the oven and continue to cook the potatoes until they are golden brown, tender and crisp.  Keep the breasts warm; they need to rest for 5-10 minutes anyway before being sliced thickly and served.  We ate ours with buttered cabbage.

 

If you like duck, I can also recommend this Chinese-style duck leg recipe by the excellent food blogger “Eat like a girl”.  It’s where I got the idea for the potatoes in the above dish.  I have made it many times, often for guests and a couple of times for 12 people: I just used two large Aga roasting tins in the roasting oven, one on the second set of rungs and one on the fourth, and swapped them over half way through cooking.  As I’ve probably mentioned before, I love dishes that can be cooked in one dish/pot/tin.  All you need to accompany this one is some pak choi stir-fried in a little oil with some soy sauce.

Tart

This weekend I also made this “Eat like a girl” Blueberry and Cardamom Frangipane Tart.  (More cardamom, I hear you say.  I’m not even going to apologise.)  She only posted the recipe this week so probably hasn’t had much feedback yet.  I can tell you we loved it.  It’s very Scandinavian and would work as a dessert, with morning coffee or afternoon tea.  I thoroughly recommend it.

 

 

 

Candles

 

 

When I was growing up people only really used candles on birthday cakes, for a special dinner or if there was a power cut (and there were quite a few in the early seventies during the three-day week). This was not true in my house, however, because my Norwegian mother brought over her country’s tradition of lighting candles at all times of the day or night. She would stock up on them during our holidays in Norway because she swore that Scandinavian candles were better and did not drip.  Imagine her excitement (yes, really) when Swedish, not Norwegian, Ikea opened its first branch over here and she could buy candles almost anytime she felt like it. It meant she could use them with abandon, finances permitting, without having to worry about when she was next going to visit her relatives or when they’d next be crossing the North Sea to visit us and could be persuaded to bring candles with them.

If this is sounding somewhat obsessive I have to admit I’ve inherited the candle dependency. They add ambience, and let’s be honest, make everything look better and hide a multitude of blemishes, whether it be the lines on your face or the chips on your paintwork. What with Scandi Noir TV dramas and a growing interest in Scandinavian cuisine over here, we feel that we know a lot more about those countries. Magazines talk about hygge and give us tips on how to achieve it in our homes. Well, candles are part of that, and you don’t only have to light them when it’s dark. In my family a candle would always be lit at breakfast on someone’s birthday, for example.

I didn’t pay my usual pre-Christmas visit to Ikea to stock up on candles because I felt we had enough to see us through. I was right but I’ve been using them sparingly ever since for fear of running out completely, which would be a disaster. Seriously. Anyway, when I was there the other day I picked up my favourites: Jubla (tall, slim and white; see above), Fenomen (fat and white) and a couple of packs of tealights. I only ever have white candles. Red is lovely at Christmas but doesn’t go that well with the decor in our living and dining rooms so I find it easier to stick to white.

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No recipes for you in this post but there IS food.  It’s hard to drop into Ikea without picking up something to eat. This time I bought spicy ginger biscuits or “pepparkaka”: delicious with a cup of tea or, should you feel the urge, a glass of mulled wine.