Exocets, Scuds and Sam-17s, but we have the longbow, so watch out!

Monday 25/10/2004

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Diary and Notes

I went to Karstadt today (Göttingen's version of M&S) to buy a rabbit. Unfortunately rabbits were over 13 euros and that's just not going to happen on a Monday night when I'm cooking dinner for just me. However, I did see some tasty French duck breasts and duck legs in the chiller compartment. The breasts were still a little too pricy (I am a poor student you know) but the legs were only 3 euros, so I thought I'd treat myself.

There are things which must be said between you and I.

I may come back to this theme again and again, but there is a general belief amongst both our Continental friends and our trans-Atlantic cousins that the British cannot cook (before anyone complains, I consider a good friend easily as important as I do a distant cousin). This is a misconception. There are certain delicacies which only the British can and do make and many of them I will be cooking later in the year. However, when it comes to certain tasty morsels, we have to concede that other cultures have a few scuds in their launchers.

Take for instance the French. Now the French heartily believe that their cuisine (a French word you will notice) is the greatest in the world. This may (possibly) be true, however the number of North African, Chinese, Vietnamese and Italian restaurants in France could give you the impression that every now and again even the French want to try something a little different. This is because (sorry Nico and Celine): the belief that French food is superior to all others is untrue. It is good. It is equal to the best, but it is not the only best and that's the point I am trying to make. French food, (when cooked well), is magnificent, and can inspire almost religious feelings in the eater. The French have a heritage that cannot be denied, but other cultures must also be given their credit.

That said, when it comes to duck (apart from perhaps Peking duck) the French are the Muhammad Ali's and the rest of the world, the unfortunate Barry McGuigans. The French know ducks. I've been to Lot (a major duck region in France) a few times and can say, without fear of any of you claiming to know better, that the French are the undisputed masters of the duck. To paraphrase someone famous: Confit de canard is God's way of telling a Frenchman that He loves them and wants them to be happy (and fat). If you haven't guessed it, today I had duck for dinner and it was fantastic. You may also have guessed that my cooking method was in many ways, very French.

I have to say a few words about stock. I do not throw a roast chicken in the bin when I've eaten the chicken. Anyone who does such a thing should be cooked by giant chickens in Hell and then not eaten, but thrown in the bin while the chickens cluck with laughter. Not only is this disrespectful to the bird you've just eaten, but it's a bloody waste of one of the finest ingredients a cook can have - old chicken bones. Make stock you lazy gits

It's easy. After roasting and eating a chicken, peel any remaining chicken off the carcass (when it's cold of course) and save for soup/sandwiches or anything. Put the old bones in a big pan, put in some vegatables (1 onion, 1 carrot, a stick of celery) a few peppercorns and a bay leaf or similar and simmer gently for 3 hours. When this is done pass through a sieve and put in the fridge. In the morning take off the fat that has floated to the surface and there's your stock. It should be like a golden and fragrant jelly.

If a recipe says use chicken stock and then says - or use a stock cube - the recipe is useless. I firmly believe that anyone writing such a thing is an idiot who should be flogged to death by celery. Good stock cannot be imitated. You can buy stock in supermarkets in the fresh meat counter if you are too lazy to make your own, I don't mind. But, and this is an essential, if you are to lead a happy and fulfilled life, to make your own stock is a wondrous thing - a joy. It is in itself a meditation. Firstly an homage to the dead animal that you have cooked saying "hey, at least I made sure every part of you wasn't wasted." and secondly, when you make your own stock (and take joy in the fact that every time you do so, it is different and produces individual delights that can never be imitated) you begin to realise that cooking is ART. The highest art.

Enough of my waffle, I just can't abide people throwing bones in the bin. (By the way I used the bones from yesterday's garlic chicken to make stock).

On to todays delights:


  • Duck leg in white wine.
  • Basmati rice with chopped herbs,
  • Courgette in parmesan,
  • Bread

  • Cheese

  • More german white wine.


  • Duck: Duck leg, olive oil, white wine, onion, bacon, chicken stock, butter, cream, salt, pepper.
  • Rice: Basmati rice, lemon juice, chopped herbs (I used flat leaf parsely and oregano)
  • Courgettes: Courgettes, olive oil, fresh parmesan cheese.


  • Duck: Get your duck out of the fridge and leave it to get to room temperature before playing with it. Trim any excess fat. Cut a few lines in the skin and sprinkle a little salt and fresh black pepper onto the meat and skin. Brown in the olive oil. When the duck skin is good and toasty pour in some wine, the chopped onion, the chopped bacon and reduce for about 3 mins. Then stir in some of your lovely home made gelatinous chicken stock. Put a lid on the duck and transfer to an oven. Leave in the oven for about 1 hour to slowly cook. When the hour is over take out of the oven, remove the duck and leave on a plate somewhere warm. Place the sauce on a high heat and reduce until it develops a nice sheen. Add a knob of butter and a little dash of cream. Cook through for a minute just to allow the butter to melt. Don't let the cream curdle by overheating.

  • Rice: You should know how to cook rice. Add a little lemon juice to stop it sticking and stir in the fresh herbs just before serving.

  • Courgettes: Slice and put in a pan with a little olive oil. Cook with the lid on until soft. Grate over loads of parmesan cheese, put in a dish and transfer to the oven to let the cheese soften.

    You must have some freshly ground black pepper with this meal.