The Mallard is the ancestor of all domestic ducks (except the few breeds derived from the unrelated Muscovy Duck) and are thought to be the most abundant duck on Earth. Mallard are in season at the moment and it's a good idea to use up some of the harvest's bounty when cooking them. Elderberries are nodding from the hedgerows and they make a great accompaniment to duck. They are the fruits of the Elderflower which has a long history of medicinal use and was once referred to as “nature's medicine chest.”
The white flowers of the elderberry bush have been used in many things; pressed into tonics, brewed into wines and champagne, lightly battered and fried into fritters, or stirred into muffin or sponge cake mix for a light, sweet flavour. The ripe berries, cleaned and cooked, can be made into many things: extracts, syrups, pies, jams, or used as garnish, dye or flavouring.
There are many reports of elderberries being used in recipes or tonics starting back in the year 43 AD when the Romans invaded Britain and brought with them their recipes, including one for Patina of elderberries. Sailors claimed it cured their arthritis and it was thought that colds were cured and fevers were broken from a spoonful of sweetened elderberry tonic. Elderberries contain potassium and large amounts of vitamin C, and have been proven in quite a few recent studies to shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms, as well as strengthen the immune system so maybe there was some truth in those ancient remedies.
Roast Mallard with Elderberries
2 mallard ducks
butter for roasting
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped
A few sprigs of thyme
1 tbsp flour
1 glass of red wine
½ tsp redcurrant jelly
cup of chicken stock
80-100g elderberries, removed from their stems
Pre-heat the oven to 230ºC/ gas mark 8. Put vegetables and thyme, brush with a little butter and season with salt and pepper. Cook the birds for 30 minutes, then remove from the roasting tray and leave on a plate to rest and catch the juices.
Add the flour to the roasting tray and stir well on a medium heat for a minute or so. Pour in the red wine and stir well, add the redcurrant jelly and gradually add the chicken stock. Simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce has reduced by half and thickened. Strain the sauce through a fine-meshed sieve into a saucepan, add the elderberries and any juices from the duck, bring back to the boil and remove from the heat. To serve the duck, chop each in half with a heavy kitchen knife and serve them on the bone.
There are two wines that I would choose to go with this meal – from opposite ends of the price spectrum. Le Pin would be lovely with the duck and is one of the most sought after wines in the world. Despite its prestige Le Pin comes from a tiny vineyard and is considered by some to be the predecessor of garage wines. Although wines from the Pomerol appellation are not classified, Le Pin ranks as a First Growth. The wines of Le Pin are rich, lush and exotic which are approachable when young but are best with 7- 10 years of bottle ageing. They have flavours of chocolate, coffee, vanilla, oak, tobacco, and black currant with silky tannins and creamy texture.
Mathilde also comes from a small vineyard and is the second wine of Château La Fleur Morange - a garagiste winery in Saint-Pey-D'Armens that is receiving high acclaim from wine critics across the globe.
Mathilde is named after Jean-Francois and Véronique Julien's daughter and is produced from the same 100 year old vines and terroir as the Grand Vin. The wine is made from 100% Merlot and is opulent, well structured, rich and has notes of cherries, blackberries, chocolate, plum and earth . . . and at a fraction of the price!