Moules Mariniere, Roast Duck with Pomegranate Sauce


Lord knows what I would have spent if we’d gone out to a restaurant so tonight I want to see in the New Year with a glass of my all-time favourite fizz, Taittinger Comte de Rose (e150) and apologise to the bank manager later! Alternatives? Ruinart (e47.50) showed up well in FOOD & WINE Magazine’s recent tasting. Dunnes Stores have an excellent Lanvin at e20 that punches well above its weight. I’d be happy to drink South Africa’s Graham Beck and I really rate Jacobs Creek’s Rose Sparkling
Foodwise, we’ll kick off with…

Moules Mariniere

2 kg mussels
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 scallions, finely chopped
15g butter
1 tbsp olive oil
a bouquet garni of parsley, thyme and bay leaves
150 ml cider
120ml cream
handful of flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Lightly scrub the mussels (reserve an old nail brush for this purpose) under plenty of cold, running water. Discard any open ones that won’t close when lightly tapped. Pull out any ‘beard’ protruding from between the shells. Give the mussels another short rinse to remove any little pieces of shell. Soften the garlic and scallions in the butter and oil in a large pan big enough to take all the mussels. Add the mussels, cider and the bouquet garni, turn up the heat, then cover and steam them until they open (approx 4 minutes), shaking the pan from time to time. Shake the pan every now and then. Remove the bouquet garni, stir in the cream and chopped parsley and remove from the heat.
Spoon into large warmed soup bowls and serve with slices of crusty baguette.

Wine: Alsace Riesling please. Hugel, Trimbach, Dopf & Irion, all good names and offering unparalleled value for money. My personal choice – any from Zind Humbrecht whose wines, while deft and serious, announce their arrival with a flourish of trumpets.

Roast duck with a pomegranate sauce
1 large duck
ground sea salt and Chinese 5 spice, mixed together
for the sauce
375 ml red wine
375 ml light stock
3 tbsp pomegranate syrup (Asian stores and good delis)
1 clove star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 small bunch fresh coriander, chopped
honey to adjust sweetness

Buy the duck a couple of days before and let it hang in a cold, draughty place, like an outhouse or garden shed until needed. Preheat the oven to 240C. Rub the duck skin with the sea salt and five spice mix and place on a trivet in a deep roasting tin. Roast until crisp and cooked through, approx one and a half hours.
To make the sauce, put the wine, stock, pomegranate syrup, anise, cinnamon and coriander in a pan and boil to reduce by half. Stir in honey to achieve the desired sweetness.
Joint the duck and slice the breast. Serve with the sauce, roast potatoes or plain mash and these Brussels sprouts and chestnuts.

Sprouts and Chestnuts

300g compact, tight Brussels sprouts, washed and pared
150 chestnuts
1 tbsp olive oil and a knob of butter
freshly ground black pepper
A French recipe that’s become a Christmas and New Year favourite with me. Prepare the chestnuts earlier in the day. Make a cross in the skin of each one with the point of a sharp knife and parboil in a pan, just until the skins open up. Peel when still hot – under running cold water with your bare hands is easiest, or using an old tea towel to diffuse the heat. Steam or boil the sprouts just until ‘cooked but firm’ and drain. Heat the oil and butter in a pan and fry the sprouts and crumbled chestnuts briefly, shaking the pan to coat them. Season with black pepper before serving.

Wine: A big warm red – maybe a Crozes Hermitage or a muscular Aussie Shiraz. Even better, a classy Tuscan stunner like Banfi Rosso di Montalcino. Budget choice –

Panna Cotta

A Piedmontese recipe I have a weakness for. The name simply means ‘cooked cream’ in Italian. And it’s not for the figure conscious! Make it the day before and serve with seasonal fruit chopped into small dice.

3 leaves gelatine
320ml full fat milk
1 vanilla pod
320ml double cream
80g caster sugar

Put the gelatine leaves in the milk to soften. Meanwhile, scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod and reserve. Place the empty vanilla pod into a pan with the cream and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Add the sugar, vanilla seeds and then the milk and gelatine. Stir until the sugar and gelatine are dissolved.
Leave to cool for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to spread the seeds throughout the mixture. You can assist the process by placing the bowl in a pan of ice. Transfer to 4 glass or metal moulds (darioles, the ones that look like mini pudding basins, are perfect) and refrigerate at least overnight or for 6-8 hours. When serving remove from the fridge, run a flexible knife between mould and panna cotta, turn over and tap sharply to release. Serve on a large plain plate, surrounded by the seasonal fruit.
All recipes serve 4

This dessert doesn’t really suit wine so save yourself for a good Cognac or Armagnac or your favourite liqueur with coffee!

Wishing you a happy and prosperous New Year

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