December is a wonderful month; I defy anyone in their heart of hearts to say otherwise. The whole build up to Christmas and New Year is truly exciting (with the obvious exception of the adverts for kids’ toys on the telly 24/seven). I love the buzz in the air and the wonderful atmosphere it creates in the restaurant. For those in my profession it is also a profitable time that keeps us going over the quiet months to come. I, for one, don’t understand the current trend for pooh-poohing Christmas – you know what I mean: all my friends seem to feel they have to say how much they hate Christmas, how over-commercialised it all is and so on. Rubbish! I believe that the festive season is all about excess, about forgetting your woes and really letting your hair down and, of course, eating too much.
Food is always a major focus that brings us all together, especially the Big One: Christmas lunch/dinner.

Rolled Christmas duck

Serves 6

  • 500g (1lb) herbed sausagemeat
  • Small bunch of sage, finely chopped
  • 200g (7oz) prunes, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 good-quality ducks, deboned
  • 3 litres (53/4 pints) water
  • Head of celery, chopped
  • Bulb of garlic, chopped
  • Few carrots, chopped
  • Vegetable oil for frying

You’ll also need butcher’s string and a square yard of muslin or a couple of clean tea towels

While this takes a bit of time to cook, the actual work involved is very quick and easy.

Mix the sausagemeat well with the finely chopped sage and the chopped prunes and season.

Squidge half the sausage mix on to each boned duck where the breast used to be, then roll the duck around it. Lay each rolled duck on a sheet of muslin or a tea towel, then tie the ends.

Roll the string around the tube to hold the duck in place. Pour the water into your biggest roasting tin and add all your chopped vegetables. Place the duck in the water on top of the vegetables and cover with foil. Pop the tin in the oven for three hours on about 140°C/275°F/Gas Mark 1, then remove.

When the meat is cool enough to handle, take off the muslin squares or tea towels and wrap each duck tightly in about five layers of cling film. This will set it into a roll.

To serve, cut a 8cm (3in) chunk per person off a roll (leave the film in place). Pop the duck chunks into a hot pan with some oil. Brown both ends, then pop in the oven at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 10 minutes.

Remove the film and serve with red cabbage, mash and a red wine sauce with fresh sloes added for piquancy.