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Saturday, 16 April 2011

Duckin' brilliant!

A few weeks ago, a copy of ‘The Vineyard Cookbook‘ fell off a store shelf, rendering it unsellable and thus very happily received by me. It is a gorgeous looking book that goes around the vineyard regions of Australia (Mornington Peninsula, Hunter Valley, Margaret River etc) and features recipes from Cellar Doors and Restaurants at those vineyards. It has lovely simple recipes ranging from a lemon tart and stuffed mushrooms, up to super complicated stuff like “Flavours of the Peninsula Vacherin with preserved cherry and turron semi freddo, mixed berry ice cream, burnt honey sauce and a crown of spun toffee. I find that if there is more than one word I don’t know in the title of a recipe then it’s probably a bit too complicated for the likes of me.
 However, it did produce a lovely List of Things to Cook, and a Saturday night catch up with friends provided the perfect excuse to try a few. I started with the usual cheese and nibbles, and watermelon margaritas. Now I know the weather at present does not lend itself to frozen drinks, but I do love my ice cream maker very much and never need much of an excuse to use it. Thankfully the sun had shone that day and they were quite delicious.
 For main course, I decided on “Spice Roasted Duck Breast with Cinnamon Mash and Orange Sauce” from the Ten Minutes by Tractor Restaurant in Main Ridge, Vic. I have never cooked duck before, but the recipe seemed simple enough and (in those famous last words ), how hard could it be ?!?! It started out quite well – for the first time I had to order spices online (  as my local Coles don’t stock ground star anise or mace, so that made me feel like a true blue foodie. Sourcing duck was a bit of a challenge, but luckily the poultry shop at Chadstone helped me out. Was feeling quietly confident until my guest confided how much he loved duck. Slight panic by me and a “gosh I hope I don’t stuff it up!” Luckily it turned out really well, and was actually quite easy to make.
I also learned that the secret to a creamy mashed potato is (not surprisingly) - lots of cream! And butter - mmmmm.
 So I look forward to tackling the other duck related recipes in the cookbook (and making roast potatoes with the melted duck fat, which a foodie friend at work assures me is divine).
For dessert, I couldn’t go past “Soft Centered Chocolate Puddings” (D’arry’s Verandah restaurant in McLaren Vale SA). When I was growing up, one of my favorite desserts was chocolate self saucing pudding from the PMWU cookbook – yummy spongy cakey pudding with a custardy chocolate sauce – delicious!! So I thought this might be a nice variation.  It was suggested to be served with chocolate ice cream, but I had been warned that these puddings could be quite rich, so I opted for a raspberry white chocolate ribbon ice cream (from The Ice Cream Bible); my thinking being that the white chocolate would be a nice counterpoint, and chocolate things are often served with some sort of raspberry accompaniment. It turned out to be a very pink looking ice cream, so I decided to add a small dollop of homemade vanilla when I served up, just in case the combination was too overpoweringly sweet. Again – very delicious and very easy to make.
(...and luckily too much for some people so I have some left overs for dinner tonight!)

 So two big “thumbs up” for The Vineyard Cookbook; a delicious meal that looked quite fancy but very easy to make. And to duck as well– when we save up a bit of money, I’ll look forward to cooking with it again!

K xx

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