Ducks – or, if they are under two months old, ducklings – come in a variety of breeds and sizes, anything from 2 lb (900 g), to 7 lb (3.2 kg) at Easter and Christmas.
Everyone associates Aylesbury with ducks, which is where production in this country used to be centred, but now most commercial ducks come from Lincolnshire and Norfolk and are very distant descendants of the original Aylesbury breed. The majority come oven-ready, weighing 4-5 lb (1.8-2.25 kg), and will feed four people.
Barbary ducks, a French breed, are fairly widely available in this country. They are usually three months old and can be anything from 3 to 7 lb (1.35 to 3.2 kg), depending on whether they’re male or female (the males are much bigger). They are less fatty than other birds and quite meaty.
In my opinion the very best type of duck available at the moment is a relatively new breed developed in England called Gressingham, and it’s a cross between Pekin and the wild mallard. The result is a bird with a rich, gamey flavour and, although sometimes smaller (3 lb-5 lb 8 oz/1.35-2.45 kg), it has a lighter frame and therefore has as much meat on it as a conventional bird twice its weight.
This is one of my favourite starters: a terrine of tiny shreds of tender, succulent duck melded together like a pâté, then served with the dazzling depth of colour and sharpness of a confit of cranberries to counteract the richness.
This is it – the best method of roasting duck I've found to date, and of all the lovely sauces, this one – made with dried sour cherries – is the loveliest.
Allow four weeks for the flavours of this confit to develop fully… a French classic that would make a good special-occasion dish as, once it's ready, you just need to cook it in the oven for 25 minutes.
Delia's delicious take on duck a l'orange brings this retro favourite bang up to date with the sharp, tangy flavour of Seville orange marmalade a great foil for the richness of the duck...
Since starting the How to Cook series I have at last hit on the very best way to get really crisp roast duck. If you've got a Gressingham duck then you'll have lots to eat as well as a really superb flavour. If you like, the confit can be made well a