Fast-flying teal offer a real sporting challenge and each one in the bag makes the perfect portion size for Rose Prince’s citrus-flavoured roast teal. Serves four.
I have written before about the greatness of a wild mallard breast when perfectly cooked. Likewise, a teal in good condition is the epitome of delicacy. The meat is paler, less bloody and one is an ideal single helping. And they are easy to cook using the pan first, oven after method. As for what to eat with them, keep it simple. It is difficult to get away from the rightness of eating ducks with citrus. They need that tang. But I do not believe that teal need a sauce, only a simple salad with peppery leaves, neatly cut orange — blood orange is aesthetically lovely — and a light dressing. Do put on a large pan of sautéed new-season potatoes, too, because these are indeed tiny ducks.
Citrus-flavoured roast teal
- 2tbsp duck fat
- 4 teal, plucked and dressed
- fine sea salt
- 90g butter, melted
- 2 blood oranges (or other orange, clementine or 1 sweet pink grapefruit)
- 2tbsp hazelnut oil
- 4 handfuls peppery leaves — watercress, rocket, mizuna or a mix of similar leaves
- The first thing to do is preheat the oven to 170°C.
- Put the duck fat in a small pan and heat to a sizzling temperature. Using tongs to holding the teal cavity opening (tail end) upwards, pour in a little of the sizzling fat and rotate the teal so the fat flushes around the cavity. This helps seal off and clean the inside of the bird so it has the cleanest flavour. Once this has been done with all four birds, paint them with the melted butter and season with salt.
- Place a large, heavy-based frying pan over a low-medium heat — preferably one with an ovenproof handle, otherwise a roasting pan will be needed. Place all the teal in the pan breast side down and brown them on all sides by turning with the tongs. They should be a lovely golden brown. Add a little more butter if the pan is dry and carefully monitor the heat so they do not burn. Transfer them to the oven and roast for a further 10 to 15 minutes. The breasts of the teal should feel firm and there may be red droplets on the surface, meaning the meat is cooked medium-rare. Remove from the oven and rest for a good 10 minutes.
- Peel the oranges with a knife and slice. Arrange on a dish or plates with the salad leaves, then dress with hazelnut oil. Carve the breasts off the bone, incorporating the leg, snipping the joint with scissors. Then serve.
Only once have I witnessed the early morning beauty of a teal flight. I am West Country born and discovered the great county of Suffolk late on, working at a food festival in Aldeburgh. My husband was invited by our hosts to get up at dawn to shoot teal among the marshes near the town. This landscape was a revelation. So accustomed to a backdrop of woodland, chalk downlands and a damp sou’westerly atmosphere while shooting, here we were in dry cold, hidden among tall reeds at a horribly early hour. Fast-flying teal are a tremendous challenge — proper shooting, remarked my husband. No matter. I was drinking in the gorgeousness of the morning, the highlight being the moment when the ox-blood red sails of a barge passed silently a little distance away, the boat hidden by reeds. So eerie. Yet what of the endgame, the tiny ducks themselves? Worth the discomfort of crouching on the only dry bit of ground available for what seemed like hours? Definitely.