Duck braised in sloe gin with rhubarb

Serves 4

You may think this is a rather odd combo but duck is one of those very adaptable birds where you can slow cook it or roast it pink and it goes brilliantly with fruit or Asian spices. Sloe gin just hangs around in some people's drinks cabinets because they get given it as a present and it's not really their cup of tea, but it's fantastic in a sauce for duck; and I've also made some very successful salad dressings out of it.

2 good-quality ducks, such as Gressingham
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
100-150ml sloe gin
150-200g rhubarb

For the sauce

60g butter
3 medium shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
50g flour
2tsp tomato purée
200ml red wine
750ml beef stock

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. With a heavy chopping knife, remove the legs and cut them in half at the joint. Cut the breasts in half through the bone and trim any excess fat. Season the pieces with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then roast them, skin side down, in a roasting tray for 30 minutes.

Remove them from the tray and drain them in a colander (the drained fat can be saved and kept in the fridge for cooking roast potatoes).

Meanwhile, make the sauce: melt the butter in a thick-bottomed pan and gently cook the shallots for 2-3 minutes until lightly coloured. Add the flour and tomato purée and stir well over a low heat for a minute. Gradually add the red wine, stirring to avoid lumps forming, and then gradually add the beef stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes while the duck is roasting.

Turn the oven down to 170C/gas mark 3. Put the duck into an ovenproof dish with a lid, along with the sauce and the sloe gin. Cook in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour until the flesh is soft. Meanwhile, cut the rhubarb into 3-4cm x 1cm sticks.

Remove the duck from the liquid, put it on to a warmed plate and cover with foil. Transfer the cooking liquid to a saucepan, skim off any fat with a ladle and simmer until the sauce has thickened. Return the duck to the liquid with the rhubarb just to warm through, adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary, and add another glug of sloe gin if it needs it.

Arrange the pieces of duck on a plate or serving dish and spoon over the sauce.

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