I'm going to describe last night's dinner in reverse order, because frankly what cook - however talented - can improve on home-grown strawberries fresh from the garden? Or in my case, fresh from the terrace. Yes, that's right, we have NINE strawberry plants on the terrace. Not eight, not seven. For the last six weeks (bar a few days) the fruits have been withering on the plants in the rainy weather. But just four days of sunshine were enough to put these five darlings in prime picking condition. I have to say they were delicious. Strawberries grow pretty well without any help at all, so the only trick really is to be able resist picking them until they are good and ripe. Yum! So that was dessert.
For dinner, I decided to try something different and roasted a couple of duck breasts with mustard, thyme and fresh garlic and made two interesting vegetable dishes. Read on if you'd like to know more...
I adapted this recipe from one I found in the Epicurious site. The original recipe called for fennel seeds instead of mustard and when I came to look for them, the cupboard was bare (of fennel seeds). So I gave the rosemary a sniff and decided it would go well with mustard.
2 duck breasts
1 Tbs grain mustard
1 clove fresh garlic
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
Smear the mustard on the meat side of one of the duck breasts, cover with sprigs of rosemary and sliced fresh garlic. (View image) The recipe called for slapping the second breast on top of the first, meat side down (which I did) and tying them together with twine (which I didn't - couldn't find the twine). Bake in a hot oven (200c/410f) for 20-30 mins, depending on whether you like your duck meat rare or well done. It's dead simple and really tasty. I didn't even bother making a gravy from the juices as the meat stayed nice and juicy and had loads of flavour.
While the duck was baking, I made:
Wash a handful of fresh spinach and put in a small saucepan with one clove of fresh garlic, sliced. Cover and cook on a medium heat until the spinach is wilted. Add a teaspoon or more of crème fraîche and a grating of freshly grated Parmesan. Stir and eat immediately, completely forgetting to take a picture first. (I was hungry, the duck was starting to smell good but was nowhere near finished...) Because the garlic was fresh, it didn't need to be thoroughly cooked to give off a mild flavour. It really went extremely well with the spinach and the Parmesan.
This is another Nigel Slater-inspired dish. Put a tiny amount of olive oil in a frying pan and heat. Toss one zucchini, sliced in thinnish pieces and cook, into the frying pan turning them occasionally, until just soft. Sprinkle with a little fresh basil and fresh thyme while it is cooking. Once they are done, remove from fire and squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the slices. Use a slotted spoon to remove to plate and sprinkle a bit of parmesan over the slices. (Is there any vegetable that isn't better with a bit of Parmesan? I don't think so...)
If you click here, you can see half my dinner. And I had the strawberries for dessert - a perfect ending. I didn't even have to share them! (I did, however, share a small amount of the duck with the Feline Critic, who judged it was very tasty and please can I have some more?)