I am undergoing a conversion, not of the religious kind, you will be glad to hear! but to shopping in Shrewsbury! I discovered an Aladdin's cave of sugarcraft goodies and cake decorations and could be heard squeaking with delight at the sight of a tube of edible fuchsia coloured gel, a glistening edible gold dust, sparkling edible cobalt blue glitter, all for my cakes. The Pink Lovely aged 7.5 yrs will expire with delight and excitement when they are produced for our next batch of cup cakes at half-term. So, if you love fun cake toppings then do go and find "The Icing Tip" in Shrewsbury's covered market on the top floor. However, if you don't like baking or don't have time to bake then there is nothing better that "Cake Angels" in Hereford. They make up the most exquisite gift boxes of cup cakes, brownies and tray bakes that I have ever seen and they are all gluten, wheat and dairy free. Fabulous gifts to be delivered to your friends or family to celebrate anything or just as a big "Thank You". £1.00 from each standard order goes to The Haven Trust in Hereford which helps ladies recover from breast cancer by giving them lots of advice and therapies. There is also a Haven in Leeds and in London and they do a magnificent job in guiding so many women. This reminds me of a very funny email that the Chief Executive of the Haven sent me last week, asking me to go around my area collecting old bras from all my friends and acquaintances. These bras will be recycled and the money raised will help towards the £1000.00 cost per person to be treated by the Haven. So, with hundreds of bras in my bag tomorrow, I set off to Hereford to deliver these aged and wondrous delights! Friday night dawns, actually, that cannot be right, it must drawing-in or something...must be loosing my concentration and needing a large Vodka and Tonic and ice and lemon.....................(quick exit!).................Ahhhhh....OOps it is only 6pm - Oh well it is 7pm somewhere in the world. Gorgeous Godmothers descending on Fox Barn later this evening and have not yet decided on what I should create for dinner tonight. I have been lusting after duck for the past week, cannot get enough of it! Could this be a lack of iron and the need for red meat or could this be that I never usually buy duck and my culinary senses are starved of this sublime game bird? Having said this: I have already had duck three times this week! Duck and Pomegranate stir-fry: exceptionally good! Duck Soup and Duck and Roquefort Salad. Weird or What...but this makes up for not eating duck for 11 months, mainly due to The Big Issue, which is of course: Does one buy ready-to-cook duck from some unspeakable supermarket chiller cabinet, wrapped in layers of plastic and un-recyclable packaging for under a tenner? OR does one go to the gasp-making game counter in the local butcher, down a windy lane half-way to Leominster? I shudder as I bring out my credit card (think of the extra point rewards!) but I am sure it is better to eat a happy duck and make a yummy stock afterwards and prepare a Chinese duck and rice noodle soup with lots of coriander, chilli, lime and spring onions for the next meal. As it happens we made some rather good damson vodka in the autumn and as I have already enjoyed a sip or two of this spirited companion, I think that I will use this liquid gold to make a sauce for the roast duck.
Recipe for Tipsy Duck
1 very large and fat duck, rubbed with olive oil so that chopped sage, thyme and bits of bay leaf , sea salt and freshly ground black pepper stick to the skin
A few peeled onion quarters and bits of carrots and chopped garlic
1 large wine glass chicken stock
Some left-over stewed plums or damson from out of the freezer
Scatter the onions and carrots over the bottom of a deep roasting dish and plonk the duck on top. Pour the stock around it and roast in a hot oven until the skin looks crispy and golden. Top up with more stock if necessary. Remove from the heat and remove excess fat, add some splashes of damson vodka and the plums or damsons. Return to the oven and cook the meat until it is just how you like it. It should really be pink so that it doesn't dry out. Remove bird and leave to sit for 15 minutes before carving. Meanwhile, boil up the goodies in the pan over a medium flame and stir in some more vodka. Sieve the mixture into a jug, adjust the seasoning to taste and then transfer it to a gravy boat or whatever you fancy serving it in. Carve the duck and before you have any gravy, make sure that you are not driving home that night!