Food & Drink

Little Geranium´s slow cooked crispy duck

This week Celebrity Chef from Ready Steady Cook & Master Chef Steven Saunders, proprietor of The Little Geranium in La Cala cooks crispy slow cooked duck for pop legend Suzie Quatro!

EL INVIERNO (winter) is looming and what better way to welcome it than some slow cooked heart warming dishes.

My slow cooked duck recipe is not exactly new, in fact I’ve been doing it for a thousand years, well at least 40! I recall a Christmas back in about 1982 when I cooked slow cooked duck for Suzie Quatro (the pop star) and some friends.

I had pre prepared the duck (which twice cooks perfectly) and drove to the house with them for a pre Xmas meal. The client/ friend was called Mark Berryman and the house was a grand hall near Finchingfield Essex, but I don’t remember the name.

Anyway, I drove down this impressively long drive through electric gates and parked up outside the front of this beautiful hall. The hall was well illuminated outside, you could see the snow resting on the immaculate lawns and topiary with a scattering of snow on top of the swimming pool to the side of the hall.

As I walked through the large Regency front door with my ducks in my hand, I was overcome by the huge Xmas tree standing prominently in the foyer of the hall, a real statement that Christmas had arrived!

In the background I could hear the sound of a guitar playing gentle festive music and as I walked into the room there was Suzie Quatro, a friend of the Berryman´s. I know it was not her style to play gentle music but she did it so well. It was a magical memory and encapsulates everything that Christmas should be, a huge log fire burning in the inglenook, an enormous overstated Xmas tree, beautiful Xmas music, elegant decorations everywhere, great food, good wine with close friends and family enjoying every moment.

I literally shoved my ducks in the Aga and we all sat at the long dining table and tucked into a dinner of roast turkey, roast slow cooked duck and roast beef, Brussels and crispy roasted potatoes. I served up a sauce with kumquats to give a twist to classic duck a la orange. Half way through the dinner Suzie commented on the duck.

She said this is the best duck she had ever eaten and it was the first time she had those tiny oranges. They are a delight she said in her American ( Michigan / Detroit) accent. Suddenly I was of interest in the room. Mark said…gosh sorry, this is our friend Steven who runs The White Hart Gt Yeldham (a beautiful 15th century restaurant bordered by the River Colne, close by). Everyone applauded.

The restaurant had a good name and I was very young (about 21) so they were surprised that the food was so good. They all seemed to love this simple dish and I have to say it was and still is exceptional. Although over the years I have evolved it. The problem with slow cooking a duck is that you might dry it out if you’re not careful.

I now like to cook it in a souvide machine (trendy water bath) which keeps it moist (sealed in a vacpac) and then fast roast it to get a crispy skin.

But I understand that not everyone will have a machine like that so I am giving you the next best alternative which is slow roasted upside down to keep all the moisture in and then afterwards, crispy roasted.

Served at this time of the year with apples, winter berries or confit kumquats (tiny oranges!) it is just a delight to eat.

Years later in the Ready Steady Cookdays I wrote about the duck in one of my cook books. The book is called Chefs Secrets published by Boxtree and it was published in 1996. ) The recipe is called Steven’s famous Pink Geranium Crispy Duck page 66.

So here is that recipe slightly evolved for the better, have a go, you never know Suzie may insist on an invite!

Ingredients for 2 ducks serving 4 people

2 ducks weighing approx. 2 kg each

1/2 kilo of fresh Kumquats or cooking apples like Bramleys

8 tablespoons of cater sugar

1 litre of water

2 sticks cinnamon

Maldon salt

1 tablespoon of chinese 5 spice

500 ml of good rich chicken stock

½ bottle of white wine

1 tablespoon of orange liquor (to finish)


Firstly remove the legs from the duck. This is because they will cook better at a different time and because a half a duck is usually too much for one person especially when we are serving many vegetables with it.

Now rub the salt and the Chinese spice into the ducks and place upside down (breasts down) into a glass baking dish. (They wont stick so much in a glass dish)

In a pre heated oven (130c) slow cook the ducks for 3.5 hours

Whilst cooking prepare your chosen vegetables (seasonal veggies are the best like Brussels, parsnips, roasted carrots etc)

Prepare the sauce by reducing the chicken stock with the white wine to about half, allow to cook and reduce for about 45 mins or until syrupy and a thickish consistency.

Now put 1 liter of water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add and dissolve the sugar and now add the kumquats and cinnamon and cook for about 30 mins until soft, tender and with a sweet and sour taste.

If the flavor is a little too sweet add a touch of vinegar, if not sweet enough add more sugar. You are looking for a sweet and sour (Haribo!) flavour

After 3.5 hours remove the ducks and allow to rest until needed. They will twice cook excellently so when you need them allow for about 30 mins and fast roast at a full blast oven (approx. 250C) until golden brown and crispy.

To finish sauce simply pass the kumquats through a sieve keeping the cooking liquor and drop the kumquats into the reduced jus (chicken stock sauce). In the same pan reduce the Kumquat syrup down until thick – it usually takes about 30 about minutes. When cold this will set like a jelly and you can use the jelly for adding sweetness to any sauce or even use it as a homemade marmalade!

Use a little of the cooking kumquat liquor or the marmalade into the jus to add flavor.

Finally carve the duck breasts from the carcass and serve one per person.

Serve the sauce separately and the roasted vegetables in the center of the table.

Note: Don’t forget about the legs ! In some people’s opinion the best flavors of the duck are in the moist legs.   If you slow roast the legs in the same way as the whole duck you can simply pick off the meat and use it for my crispy duck salad recipe, the one with the oriental dressing. Or serve the legs crispy roasted on mashed potatoes with the kumquat sauce. If you don’t have the crispy duck oriental recipe then let me know and I can send it to you. Enjoy!

You can email Steven for any questions or bookings at:

Steven Saunders FMCGB

The Little Geranium

La Cala de Mijas (Behind the Town Hall)

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