Mallard, or wild duck, is one of my favourite game birds and is a great alternative to turkey for Christmas lunch. They’re available from good game dealers – in Edinburgh I would try Crombie’s, George Bower or Saunderson’s. If you choose a whole bird, I would recommend removing the legs and cooking them separately for longer than you do the breasts or the crown. Cooking the breasts on the bone will lessen the shrinkage and keep it moist but you can cook single breasts in a pan if you prefer.
4 breasts of mallard
4 heritage potatoes or new potatoes, skin on and par-boiled - I like Pink Fir and Aura
1/2 a Savoy cabbage, stem removed and shredded
4 cloves of garlic
4 sprigs of thyme
Good salt and pepper
2 tablespoons cold-pressed rapeseed oil
4 knobs of butter
Heat the oven to 180°C.
Add the oil to a large, hot frying pan, season the mallard and place each breast carefully, skin-side down in the pan. Season again.
Cut the potatoes in half and place them next to the breasts. Add the garlic and thyme. Once the mallard skin is golden, turn and add the chestnuts. Reduce the heat and cook for a minute or 2.
Place the pan in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes depending on how cooked you like your duck. Remove from the oven, add 2 knobs of butter to the pan and baste the mallard. Season again. Remove the mallard from the pan and allow rest on a plate in a warm place. Remove the potatoes from the pan and keep warm. Retain the juices in the pan.
Blanch the cabbage in boiling, salted water and drain, and add the remaining butter. Season and stir in any juices from the pan. Duck fat is delicious in cabbage! You can also add any resting juices.
To serve, slice each breast into long slithers and arrange on a wooden board or 4 individual, warmed plates. Arrange the cabbage, chestnuts and those golden brown potatoes and garnish with the garlic cloves and thyme stalks. Add a pinch of good salt and serve at once.