The Perfect Duck Breast !

The perfect duck breast has proven a little illusive for me but I’ve just tried this one out. It was by A McKenna (@goosnargh_duck) who specialise in raising corn fed chickens and goosnargh ducks. I managed to bag a couple of plump, Goosnargh duck breasts from them at the Artisan food market in Wilmslow, Cheshire. The flame and I are quite partial to a plump breast and it’s always a help when said proprietor hands over a neat, witty cooking instruction to help you on the way.

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The finished dish on puy lentils

I have replicated the text almost word for word. There might be the odd gag thrown in!

Serves 4

1-  Take four duck breasts, don’t trim them (I always used to!), lay them flesh side down on a board.
2 – Get a sharp knife and score the skin all the way through to the flesh, don’t cut the flesh, just let the blade touch the flesh. The big thing here is to make sure you score all the way to the edge of the breast so that as the skin shrinks during cooking it doesn’t pull the flesh and make it tough.
3 – Season the skin (only the skin side it says here) with a generous amount of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
4 – Take a solid, heavy frying pan and turn the heat to three quarters on your hob to get it going. Lay the duck skin side down in the cold pan, put the pan on the heat and turn down to about half. I have an induction hob so I did on 6 (out of 9).

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Scored, skin side down, turned over and rest

5 – Now it says, “Do Not Touch Anything, do not move the pan, don’t even think about it”. Apparently what is going to happen over the next ten minutes is that the fat under the skin will slowly melt and the skin will go brown and crispy.
6 – when the skin starts to colour around the outside you are ready to move on. This should take about 7 minutes. The pan will have a good 1cm of duck fat in it and all of the duck fat will have melted.
7 – now season the flesh side (not before it insists), then turn the duck breasts over and cook for two minutes. Then increase the temperature to full for a further 1 minute.
8 – take the pan off the heat and leave the breasts in the pan for 5 minutes while you prepare your side dishes.
9 – then slice. It will then be very sexy indeed. See pics for proof!!

You can keep the rendered duck fat for cooking roasties. Four duck breasts will produce about 200ml of fat.
I served my duck on a bed of mustard flavoured puy lentils.

Thanks to A McKenna of Goosnargh Duck twitter @goosnargh_duck
The artisan market operates in Cheshire most Sundays through the year visit http://www.theartisanmarket.co.uk

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Camp and Furnace – Liverpool

It’s term time again. For our sins, The flame and I are blessed with two, southern, grand daughters. Fresh up from the big smoke we decide to treat them and take them out for a big feed. Their city of learning is Liverpool. I decided there’s only one place to take the learned couplet – Camp and Furnace. 
‘Camp’ in this instance refers to camping and outdoor pursuits, ‘furnace’ refers to the errr…… Furnace that’s set at one end of the big room inside. 
This is a feeding hole like no other. Set in an old industrial unit in the ‘Baltic Triangle’, a good fifteen minute walk from the main metrop, this is a place that has to be seen to be believed.
The surroundings could be described as urban chic. First time round you could be forgiven for turning back, turning your map upside down or binning your google maps. Branding must be uncool round here. An old, rusty, stencilled oil drum, the only marker to suggest you have hit the spot. If you venture further into the lair the swish of an electric portal sweeps you into the spatial grounds within.

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The industrial scheme continues inside. The bar area hits first, the bar itself to the left is built of marine ply and lit with trendy metal pendants. To the right a glorious, roaring contemporary fire. Beyond the bar area you enter the grand arena, or brick warehouse whichever you prefer! It’s here where the magic begins. To the right down in the depths of a huge vault, a raging inferno fuelled by cages of logs light up the ‘furnace’, its four orange eyes providing a glowing backdrop as punters pose for snaps. Ancient, rusted ‘craneage’ and girders hide in the rafters beneath a vintage glazed roof. Lines of up cycled, trestle tables and benches, each thoughtfully lit with wine bottle candles create a truly unique and welcoming atmosphere. Our little crew have a table for four to ourselves. There are numerous parties going on, each occupying their own sub sections of the plank like dining suites.

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As it was a Sunday, the Camp sets it’s stall on providing a top notch Sunday Roast (between 1pm and 6pm). The main course is either 28-day dry-aged Lancashire Sirloin (£12.50), whole roast corn-fed chickens (£11.50 from the heart of rural Britanny) or heritage Herdwick lamb (£11.50). These all come served on wooden platters with locally sourced, seasonal vegetables. A mushroom Wellington is added for the veggies. 
It is advised to order the main event before you turn up. We went for the beef and the lamb. The chicken comes whole and looked superb, but is recommended for three. I think a hungry twosome could have down quaffed it at a push! 
There is the option for a starter as well as a desert. We decided to plough straight on for the mains but the starters sounded good, potato soup (£4) poached salmon salad (£6) or confit of lamb shoulder (£6). 
The excitement racked up as the team of raffish young waiters and waitresses marched into the arena with board after board of meat, bowls of perfect roast spuds and more bowls of buttery veg. The rather wonderful, Irish lilted, Emma kept our table fed and watered and oversaw the delivery of our splendid feed. Four thick slabs of pink sirloin and four of (less pink) lamb kept the protein intake in check, great yorkshires, great spuds, roasted carrots, buttery cabbage and crispy kale provided the carbs and greens. Considering the quantities being put out the quality was very good. A minor quibble for the flame was that the veg and meat by the time it had made its way down the room was less than hot, but for me this was remedied by the thumping great jug of hot gravy that was gifted out like steins at a beer festival.

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After the feast we opted for the two deserts. Essex girl No 1 Jess, went for the peanut butter cheesecake (£6) while Essex girl No 2 Nancy went with the flame and I for the four portion sticky toffee pudding (£12). The Cooktwit, for research purposes, was allowed a brief morsel of the cheesecake. It was very ‘peanutbuttery’ and a bit grainy in texture, but set on a great biscuit base. The toffee pudding came set in its own 12″, low slung bowl with a mug of piping hot, toffee sauce and a bowl of vanilla ice cream. It wasn’t ‘Cartmel’ sticky toffee pudding by any means, but once the hot jus had soaked in and the ice cream melted alongside it was heavenly. A great, comforting, hearty finish to a very enjoyable trough out.

As a minor aside, it is worth mentioning that it was uncomfortably cold at times. We had an industrial blast heater to keep us up to temp but as more came in we had to share and it did start to get a little uncomfortable. In winter this is not a place to take your granny for a cosy chomp! I would advise wrapping up a bit. But that is part of the fun. You can’t have an outdoor theme in industrial England and expect to lounge around in your ‘Y’ fronts!
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In summary this is a truly magical place to come with the family and friends. The Camp has some great events throughout the year. The beer festival in June looks like a date! We will definitely be back on another day to try out the normal menu. All indications suggest that will be a triumph as well. Get yourself down here, it is truly a special and has to be sampled to be believed.

Camp and Furnace
67 Greenland Street
Liverpool L1 0BY
enquiries@campandfurnace.com
(0151) 708 2890

The Gazelle – Menai Bridge, Anglesey

Got a bit of a soft spot for Anglesey. Quite often nip over for a bit of camping in the summer. However, the flame and I and two others couples checked in at a beach side cottage on Red Wharf Bay for New Year. Had a belting time. However, whilst we mainly cooked ourselves we fancied a final celebratory meal. Another pal, Mr Gardner, a cove of some standing suggested we try ‘The Gazelle’.
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It’s initial attraction is it’s amazing location. It juts invitingly into the waters of the Menai Straits, directly opposite the famous Bangor pier. A glance to the right reveals the magnificent, original Menai bridge. If you look forward you get the Snowdonian mountains. Its all rather impressive. You have to negotiate a narrow track down from the ‘Beaumaris’ coast road, it’s easily missed, but it’s well worth the effort to seek out and take on. When we arrived the tide was in and a winter storm was lashing up the straits. However, a warm welcome beckoned.
The place looks to have had a fairly recent makeover and all to a good standard. There are a number of rooms. The residents lounge resplendent in red leather, the bar is homely with a good range of ales, a couple of other rooms have ornate, antique perches, all for eating in. We however, plumbed for the ‘restaurant’ bit. It is tastefully decked out with a more contemporary feel than the other rooms, light oak splashed with pastel shades and heavy, grey wicker chairs. Very pleasant it is too. It was warm as well, no mean feat given the wind and rain lashing against its modern bay windows.
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The food was good as well. A comprehensive, professionally printed menu suggested it was all standard pub fayre. It does have a specials board though and claimed most of the produce is locally sourced. It did have Menai Strait Mussels, so you can’t get more local than that! As you’d expect for an island, fish and seafood is heavily featured. Indeed the starters were either fish, mushrooms or goats cheese. Prawns, whitebait, mussels and salmon all listed.
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Mains are more varied but the party mostly went for fish, except for me, who had pork belly ribs in a homemade barbeque sauce with salad and chunky chips (£9.95). The ribs were set in their own dish on the plate. They were succulent and tasty, the sauce was sticky and lovely, definitely home made. Even the chips were great and doubled up as small mops to wipe up the excess sauce that was left.
The flame went from the specials board and had a trio of smoked salmon, trout and halibut with a well dressed salad (£11.95). I must admit cured fish is not my cup of tea, but she proclaimed all to be well and thoroughly enjoyed it. It seemed a bit sparse for £11.95 to me, but the flame was well chuffed. One of our friends had a halibut steak wrapped in spinach and pancetta with a cheese sauce, whilst another scooped up the smoked haddock fish cake which was massive.
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A few of us had deserts. My caramel apple pie was lovely but was easily surpassed by the hot apple crumble filled to the brim of the dish with hot custard. This was wolfed away with aplomb by the flame. I was allowed a spoonful and can vouch that it was comfort food personified, perfect for a cold winters eve.
The whole shebang came to £106 for six of us. We only had two courses but it was a perfect end to a great new year break.
So there it is, if you do happen to venture onto the wonderful isle of Anglesey there are some great places to visit and plenty of great pubs. I would definitely give ‘The Gazelle’ a thought if you need a decent feed in a superb location. I can imagine sat outside in summer it would be a real treat. Give it a go. We’ll be back.
The Gazelle Hotel
Glynn Garth
Menai Bridge
Isle of Anglesey
LL59 5PD
01248 713364