Despite dogged research, I have been unable to find anything related to this richly flavoured, vaguely Moroccan tagine-like gem of a duck recipe from Josceline Dimbleby’s “Cooking With Herbs and Spices” published by Sainsbury in 1979.
The only clue to its history lies with Josceline herself who, as part of a diplomatic family, was fortunate enough to grow up in a mix of countries, especially Syria, the Middle and Far East. She describes this enchantingly in “Orchards in the Oasis” an account of her adventures in travel and food, starting with her childhood in Syria and ending with a trip to Gujarat in 2005. Along the way she takes in Peru, Turkey, Iran, Morocco, the Canary Island of Lanzarote, North America, Burma, Vietnam and New York – and of course England.
As a young student, back in London at Guildhall school of music and living in a basement flat, she began to experiment with cooking, relying on memory and imagination rather than on any collection of recipes. Among her first experiments was a classic shepherd’s pie, enlivened Syrian-style with cumin seeds and ground cinnamon.
Now this was just the moment when England was beginning to change from a nation that regarded olive oil as useful to clean wax from your ears and garlic as undoubtedly suspicious, to one increasingly food obsessed. Elizabeth David is generally regarded as the chief influence, introducing her rationing deprived audience to the delights of classic French and Italian home cooking, while (now Sir) Terence Conran offered the perfectly designed pottery, pots and tableware to cook and serve it with.
Josceline followed close behind with her own delightful play on familiar, traditional British recipes mixed with more exotic, mostly Middle and Far Eastern flavours. Her first book for Sainsbury in 1978, “Cooking for Christmas”, was hugely popular, so fixed in home cooks’ memories that an updated version (with additional recipes) was published just last year. This was followed by nine more cookbooks, including “Cooking With Herbs and Spices” in 1979, “A Taste of Dreams”, “Sweet Dreams”, “A Travelers Tastes”, etc., with the series in total selling more than 13 million copies. Sadly (or fortunately) I have just three, much treasured, out of the ten, and revisit them frequently.
Duck With Olives, Cinnamon and Orange has always been among my favourites and, having neglected this recipe for too long, revisited it three times in the past month – once with chicken breasts instead of duck which gave a paler colour and slightly more delicate flavour.
Here is what I did:
Duck With Olives, Cinnamon and Orange
ALL YOU NEED: adjusted to feed 2 people
2 duck legs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large clove garlic, crushed
2 ounces pitted black olives, chopped
juice of one large orange
1/8 pint water
finely chopped parsley (for garnish)
Preheat oven to 200 C (400f)
Fry duck legs over fairly high heat until gilden brown on all sides. Stir in the chopped garlic and cook until a light golden colour, Sprinkle with cinnamon, salt and pepper (to taste) and pour in the orange juice and water. Cover and bring to a simmer in the oven – about 15 minutes. Turn oven down 190c/350F for ¾ to 1 hour or until the duck is tender when pierced with a knife.
Pour the juices from the duck into a saucepan and skim off as much fat as possible. Boil the remaining juices over high heat until reduced and slightly thickened. – about 8-10 minutes. Pour the sauce over the duck, cover and keep warm until ready to serve.
Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley with rice and green salad or vegetable.