Beetroot makes a fine pairing with mallard, and serving it with its stalks and leaves is great because we're using all parts of the vegetable and adding extra depth to a wonderfully earthy ingredient. It's also a visual treat as the purple juices from the beetroot mix with those of the mallard.
Ingredients (serves 4)
4 mallard crowns
700g small beets with leaves and stems attached
1tsp Dijon mustard
75ml sherry vinegar
Small bunch thyme
Butter for beet stalks 40g approx.
120g butter per mallard
Salt and pepper to season
Remove the stalks and leaves of the beetroot and place in a roasting tray; add a splash of sherry vinegar, salt, thyme and about an inch of water. Cover with foil and cook until done (test with a spike).
Sweat the chopped stalks in butter until soft, add some sherry vinegar and continue to cook for a few minutes. De-vein the leaves and add to the stalks.
Cook down and add a few pieces of beetroot and two to three teaspoons of mustard.
Take the legs off the bird, they have a lot of chewy sinew and can be used elsewhere. (We would salt and confit the legs and either serve them with the bird or the meat can be used in a salad for a separate dish on the menu).
Cook for about 20-25 minutes, obviously this is going to vary with the size of the bird.
Experience should tell you when it feels right or you could probe the thickest part of the breast, ideally, you're looking for 55ÂºC.
By cooking the mallard at a lower temperature you're causing the muscle much less stress, leading to a better texture when finished and an even "doneness".
By James Lowe, head chef, St John Bread & Wine, London