I have just woken up on day 5 of 9 (if you count weekends) of a week off work that I’m sharing with Charlotte. Sometimes, between her being a rugby-playing-therapist and me being a two-jobs-Joe, we’re a bit like ships in the night and don’t really get much time together. So this week is all about doing nothing, together!… Or, almost nothing!..
Naturally, the time so far has been very foodie focused. As well as pottering around in the garden and brewery fixing things and tidying things and enjoying the sun, we have done little else but eat. On Friday night I kicked the week off with a special little something of mine called Batcherlorette Baguette.
The next morning, we did Birthday Two: The Sequel. This, to give some quick background, was a surprise from me to Charlotte. Every year on her ACTUAL birthday, Charlotte has one simple request; to completely relax. She wants sofa bed, video games, cocktails and food. This is something I’m very happy to do, as it’s easy enough and pretty enjoyable for me too. I had it all planned well in advance of the day of her actual birthday, every timing to a t. I would get up, start ‘The Ham’, cook American Pancakes with Bacon for her breakfast, transfer The Ham to the oven once breakfast was served, take her to the living room for presents after breakfast, unveil The Ham for lunch, cook blade of beef dinner and Jam Roly Poly for pudding.
Unfortunately, upon serving the pancakes for breakfast, the oven mysteriously broke. I called out an emergency repair man via our Letting Agent, who couldn’t find the problem and said I’d need to wait a week for the repair man to come. I then attempted to light the barbeque (in the middle of winter) with house coal, this didn’t work. I then tried to light up a blow torch so I could at least finish the ham with some crispy fat as Charlotte likes it, but no gas. Finally, as I gazed at the masses of defrosted and oven-ready food around me, I had to admit defeat. Charlotte’s birthday would not be fooditastic, it would not even have a cake. It would at least have the blade of beef and this is do-able on the hob but… nothing else. “But stiff upper lip”, I told myself! “You’re not going to be one of these silly women who cries over a bloody oven! Get back in there and continue showing her a lovely relaxing day!”
…Naturally, I did return to the living room however wept ungracefully. Hardly a relaxing experience for poor old Charlotte. She was lovely about it of course, and insisted she had a perfect birthday, but I never felt quite right about the half-job I did. Hence, Birthday Two: The Sequel.
This one was a great success! I woke Charlotte with American Pancakes and served them to her, all while cooking The Ham and the Jam Roly Poly. I then unveiled them for lunch…
And my work was done! I feel I can now finally forgive myself for Birthday One: The Mishap.
That evening, Charlotte cooked up her exquisite Chicken Kebabs which were delicious, so delicious in fact I forgot to take a photo! But the next time she makes them, we’ll definitely do a whole recipe bit.
Today and Monday, we had a barbeque! It was fishtastic, with a side of ham.
Yesterday, we went to Thorpe Park. A first for Charlotte and great fun for us both! Thorpe Park, surprisingly, also have some good foodie delights on offer! But I didn’t indulge in these too much myself- I didn’t want to risk embarrassment on their awesome, awesome rides.
In terms of food though, Sunday was particularly special. Sunday was Duck in Orange.
This dish is special to me because of the memories. Duck in Orange was a favourite of my Grandma’s. When I was a teenager I used to go to her house for dinner after college and she would almost always make duck in orange. She would use a pack she got from Lidl but then add extra bit to it. It was absolutely gorgeous, and very tender! She would watch with pride as I scoffed every last bit!
Before I left to go travelling in 2015, I requested she make it for my last dinner with her before setting off. It was so important to her, and she got in a panic with it. In the end, she put it all on a bit too early but all this meant was she cooked it low and slow for longer! Resulting in some fall-off-the-bone duck! Again, delicious!
By the time I returned from travels, my Grandma was beginning to get a little tired with cooking so I started cooking Duck in Orange for her. The first time I made it for her was as a belated birthday treat. She had told me before that her sister, Val, had told her she’d tried to find a good Duck in Orange recipe but could never find one that was right. I did some looking around and found some interesting sounding recipes but they also sounded a bit over-complicated! So I boshed together something straight-forward and, lucky me, she loved it! She described it as “just tart enough” and exclaimed “well done, that girl!” when she finished it. In fact, before Sunday, the last time I cooked this was for my Grandma and Grandad in my flat in Northampton.
Grandma’s Duck In Orange
This recipe was tailored especially for my Grandma. It was just right for her, and because of that I’ll personally never make it differently, but you might want to make a few adjustments for your own personal taste, such as a little more garlic or a little less pepper!
- 2 Duck Legs
- 500ml Orange Juice
- 2 large oranges
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 chicken stock pot
- 1 teaspoon of soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
- White pepper
- Onion powder
- Demerara brown sugar
Here we go…
- Rub your duck legs with salt and pepper
- Get a large, high rimmed pan on the hob and get it good and hot with NO oil inside. Lay the duck legs skin side down inside for about a minute, then remove them and place them on a plate skin side up.
- Pour your orange juice into the pan, then add the zest of your two oranges. Cut the oranges into quarters and squeeze these in then add the whole pieces to the pan.
- Finely dice your garlic and add this to the pan, or use a garlic press and press it into the pan.
- Add your soy sauce, white wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder, a good sprinkle of pepper and your chicken sock pot to the pan. Stir, until the stock pot has completely dissolved.
- Return your duck legs to the pan, skin side up. Cover and leave for twenty minutes, stirring the sauce only occasionally but never flipping the duck legs.
- Add about a teaspoons of brown sugar to the sauce and stir it in. You may wish to add more, or less, according to your taste.
- Serve! We enjoyed ours with roast potatoes and mange tout, as I would do with Grandma.
As much as I really am missing my beloved Grandma and feeling painfully aware of how long it has been since I spoke to her, she would be pleased to know that life is otherwise good right now. March 28th was especially significant for reasons that will soon become clear, and this promises to be an interesting and exciting year. I feel very lucky right now.