:: I’ve been basking in the rainy glory of one of the wettest winters we’ve experienced in the last decade.
Unlike the UK – where it can drizzle non-stop for hours but you can walk around quite comfortably without getting too wet – Perth’s rain is normally the fast and furious kind, leaving anyone unlucky enough to be caught without an umbrella looking like they’ve taken a fully-clothed shower.
Over the last month it’s rained almost every day (very unusual here – even for winter) and whilst it normally takes time for the rain clouds to get sufficiently grey and thunder-y again, we’ve been treated to several downpours per 24-hour period. Treated? Yes, treated!
Many of you will already know that I’m convinced I was born on the wrong continent, as I adore the autumn and winter months; the cold, the rain and everything else that comes with it.
I love the numbing freshness of the morning on my face, the chill air that warrants boots and gloves and coats (ok, slightly fashion-motivated), and snuggling into the couch with hot tea, blanket and purring, furry hot water bottle curled up in the crook of my knees.
I love the distinct light at dawn and dusk as it blossoms out from under a dark cloud blanket, gilding the highest trees and buildings with a layer of gold against gunmetal grey. And the way that the rain paints everything with a vivid brush, leaving a dewy aftermath. Everything is cleaner (including my car), lusher and greener…
And of course, I love the food that comes with this season – the slow-cooking of casseroles that keeps the house warm during the day and the baking that fills it with irresistible aromas of spice, butter and sugar.
I could continue referencing a million other winter stereotypes but I think you get the point. Even despite Perth’s internationally renowned ‘perfect’ climate and our fantastic beaches, if I could make it winter all year round, I’d do it in a heartbeat (…oh, don’t look at me like that)!
The one downside (the only one as far as I’m concerned) is the onslaught of the flu season. The mutant bronchial-sinus-viral infection sweeping around the office finally caught up with me last week and I spent two solid days in bed.
Come Sunday, after living on countless hot lemon and honey teas and mouthfuls of toast, I was in need of a hearty casserole and rather than going down the beef-and-a-few-veg route, I went with something a bit more exotic.
1 tbsp olive oil 6 x 250g duck marylands, skin removed 2 tbsp plain flour 500g eschalots (French shallots), peeled 3 cloves garlic, crushed ½ cup pomegranate molasses ¼ cup tomato paste 1 cup red wine 3 cups chicken stock 3 sprigs thyme
Preheat your oven to 160°C.
Dust the trimmed duck marylands with flour seasoned with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based ovenproof saucepan over medium heat. Cook the duck in batches for a couple of minutes each side or until browned. Remove and set aside.
Add the whole eschalots to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, for about three minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute, until the vegetables are golden and just starting to stick to the pan.
Pour in the pomegranate molasses, tomato paste, wine, stock, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and return the duck pieces to the pan, covering with a tight-fitting lid.
Transfer to the oven and cook for two hours, until the duck is meltingly tender and falling off the bone.
Remove from the oven and gently scoop out the duck pieces from the sauce. Donna suggests shredding the meat using two forks but I prefer to let it cool slightly and use my hands, as it’s easier to feel for any small bones. Discard any fat and the bones.
Return the duck meat to the sauce and cook over medium high heat for five minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly.
The sauce is incredibly rich and flavoursome, so you don’t want to overdo it with a heavily flavoured side. Try it with simple mashed potato or some crusty ciabatta – heavenly stuff!