It wouldn’t be Autumn without game or root vegetables. When the sun-kissed glamour and sexy freshness of just-picked summer berries, vibrant green salads and juicy watermelon run out around August and the fields begins to relinquish their yield to strictly de terre takings, we get crazily excited.
The leaves are turning shades of russet, ruby and burnt orange. Apples are aplenty. Horse chestnuts – conkers to us – are falling from branches in their hedgehog spiky jackets. Gourds, squashes, turnips and pumpkins tower and tumble from supermarket shelves. It’s time to embrace Autumn and change the menu to suit the chillier weather, darker nights and that extra layer that hides a multitude of sins (read: over-indulgence). Concealed spare tyre season, ahoy!
Commonly mistaken as boring vegetables to work with, root veg move from sideline support to top-of-bill superstar when spices are added. You know, those 30 or so mini jars you’re hoarding in your cupboard since last year? Yeah, time to bring those out again; though check the date first please…
We don’t need to tell you that pumpkin spice has been commercialised by the coffee industry. Look, we love a good flavoured coffee as much as the next guy, but let’s get a little crazy with pumpkin spice, shall we? You can clutch your pumpkin spice lattes all you want as you sip pure sugar, warm cream and coffee that doesn’t even taste of coffee anymore but we think the glorious grouping of “pumpkin” spices – even when pumpkin is nowhere in sight – absolutely deserves to be explored, exploited and enjoyed as much as possible. So we’re piling it all over roast duck legs. Quack yeah!
BTW, If you’re a particular addict, you may or may not want to read Food Babe’s post on what’s really in a Starbucks PSL.
For this you will need a simple homemade spice mix, which will take you roughly all of 20 seconds to make. Your seven-strong mix is cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves, mace and cardamom. The last two are not absolutely necessary, but we love them. Obviously if you grind from fresh it will be all the more pungent, but don’t worry, pre-ground spices will absolutely do the trick; we used a mixture of both.
Pumpkin Spice Duck Legs
- two duck legs, skin-on
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1/8 tsp mace
- 1-2 cloves, crushed
- salt, pepper
1. Take the duck out of the fridge one to two hours before cooking so it’s at room temperature.
2. Cover the duck legs in the spice mix, concentrating on covering the skin and then poke the skin with a small cocktail stick all over. It will be fairly dry on the outside.
3. Cook at 170°C for 45 minutes, then 200°C for a further 15 to make really crispy.
We served ours with a side of raided-from-the-fridge leftovers which included a quarter head of cabbage, two small local apples, two cloves of garlic and two onions. We sweated the onions and garlic with the garlic in a little butter on a very low heat for about 10 minutes until softer. We then added in the cubed apples (skin on) and cooked down for five minutes more. The light warm salad with the richly-spiced game works so well.
You might think “well, what am I going to do with all these spices once I’ve used the minimal amount for this recipe?” Well, these will absolutely arrange themselves as a happy arsenal in your spice cupboard if you don’t already stock them. Chuck cardamom into as many cakes and bakes as you can for a Scandinavian twist; put mace or nutmeg in custards; ginger is amazing in smoothies and juices (alongside turmeric too!) not to mention in curries and stews; allspice and clove add amazing depth to caribbean cookery.
A real quacker; this dish is sure to impress this season.