Gorgeous slow-cooked duck pasta: if you read the ingredients, it isn't that far off the pot-roasted poussins agro-dolce that I made ages ago (well, in November - but that is ages ago in terms of the life-span of my project). Simon commented somewhat wistfully at Christmas that we don't eat the same thing twice very much at the moment - this is particularly odd for me because I am the sort of person who develops obsessions about food and I could easily eat the same thing every day for months before becoming suddenly repulsed by it and moving on to a new fad. That was how I was when I was little, in any case, but even as a grown-up foodie sort of person, I have always gone through phases. There was a phase when I made Jamie's parsnip and pancetta tagliatelle almost every week; the same happened more recently with his prawn, chilli and rocket pasta. At one point everyone who came for dinner got Nigella's seafood and pumpkin yellow curry; at another, it was her sage and onion chicken and sausage one-pot meal from Feast. I think these dishes all become, for a short period of time, my comfort blanket; they are always easy, week-night type dinners, often with store-cupboard ingredients, and I can manage them blind-folded. My staple week-night dinners very often involve dried pasta, most frequently with prawns, sometimes with bacon, because dried pasta is easy and convenient and because it is extremely warming food. Anything that can be eaten in a bowl instead of a plate, I would say, works to cocoon and to comfort - particularly in January, when purses are empty and holidays are a long way off. That is at least partly why I am probably statistically more likely to return to pasta recipes than any others; the other reasons are, predictably, time and convenience.
To make this dish, I roasted a duck that had been rubbed in olive oil, seasoned, and stuffed with orange quarters into its cavity. I actually used this duck as the basis for 2 recipes: this pasta dish and a Middle Eastern duck salad that I will write about tomorrow. This is because both recipes served at least four and we were two; it seemed like a sensible way to tackle two different duck recipes. Anyway, putting this aside and returning to the recipe for this dish as follows:
To make the sauce, I fried diced pancetta until golden, adding chopped onion, carrots, celery, rosemary, cinnamon stick and garlic and fried slowly for 10 mins until the vegetables softened. I added a tin of chopped tomatoes (for 2 people) and 1/4 bottle red wine and let it simmer for 25 minutes, before adding shredded duck meat and simmering for another half hour. If the sauce gets too thick, you can add stock or water (I added a little water). I removed the cinnamon stick and added sultanas and pine nuts.
Jamie suggests occhi di lupo or rigatoni pasta. I had neither in the house and Sainsburys had neither in stock, so I replaced with a tight spiralled pasta. When the pasta was cooked as per packet instructions, I tossed it into the sauce and stirred in butter, Parmesan, parsley, orange zest and juice and a good splash of vinegar. I loosened the sauce slightly with some cooking water and served.
The dish isn't very photogenic. I have noticed that pasta, like stews and curries, tastes a lot better than it looks. Desserts certainly have the aesthetic edge! Appearance apart, however, this is delicious. I said earlier that it isn't dissimilar to the ingredients for the poussins agro-dolce, but they included sun-dried tomatoes not standard tomatoes and somehow this tastes completely different. That dish was dark and sultry; this one is warm and cosy, and I like both.
I made a cake today too, for a friend of ours whose birthday it is tomorrow. She's a mini-egg fiend and Simon wanted her cake to reflect that, so I remembered Nigella's Easter cake recipe (which resembles a nest...). I'd never made it before but I knew other people had (and had seen photos); it is a craggy, flourless cake with a crater into which is scooped chocolate cream and then mini eggs. I include a photo because it ended up looking more or less pretty.
Thinking back to Simon's point about us not eating the same thing twice at the moment, I think that probably that is the main downside of the project. I try something one night, love it, think I want it again, immediately, then try something else the next night and forget the previous night's success. Fickle, me? Well, maybe. That said, I have noticed that some books call me back to cook the same recipes over and over more than others. I can already say with some confidence that I am looking forward to returning to most of the dishes I've cooked from this book, always with the question in my head as to whether they will taste as good, second-time around - or better. I already have a clear idea in my head of what I think is missing from this book and what I hope Jamie'll do more of in the next book; I feel as though this book is becoming a friend. It looks terrible, by the way. At the end of the project I'll take a picture of the book, to show its battle stains. The words 'COOK WITH JAMIE' on the cover have almost worn off; there are marks on lots of pages and my hair seems to be moulting into it. At the end of the project, if I want to make any recipe again, I might need to buy myself a new copy.