Re-creating Heston Blumenthal’s recipe for classic 60’s duck à l’orange from Channel 4 Feasts TV show.
“Please, don’t try this at home”, Heston implores us at the start of every barmy episode of Feasts, and when he’s simmering entire pigs in a Jacuzzi for 24 hours I’m inclined to agree. It all seems a bit much for some dinner on a weeknight. Where are my Findus Crispy Pancakes?
The part of episode one of the new series that really grabbed me was his brutal slagging off of duck à l’orange. I’m a child of the 80s, so this culinary fad passed me by. But with Heston spending so much time enthusing over the French original and (more entertainingly) laying into its British imitator that I became fascinated.
After hearing the kicking that the UK’s version got I think we were all eager to see just how bad it seemed in the 21st century. The programme didn’t disappoint, with Heston offering a grim concoction of orange squash, gravy granules and congealing duck to passers by.
I don’t have a laboratory-grade distilator or a canister of sulphur hexafluoride laying around the house, but I’ve got immediate access to Bisto and Kia-ora. Fascinated by the grim food of the 60s, and in pursuit of an “interesting” weeknight dinner, I decided that, out of all the recipes on the show, I definitely could try this at home.
I followed the roast duck recipe s from the brilliant Mary Cadogan over at BBC Good Food, though I doubt that doubt that the typical 60s British kitchen was equipped with five spice, fresh rosemary and so on. For the sake of authenticity, I’ve omitted those.
I copied the sauce method from the show, mixing instant gravy in a pan using cordial in place of water. It feels very wrong.
The plainly roasted duck itself is actually fine (if a little overcooked). The sauce isn’t quite as horrific as it sounds, but it tastes like what it is: gloopy and artificial. And it isn’t something you’ll ever want to repeat.
I can’t claim that you’ll be so disgusted you’ll be begging for those Findus Crispy Pancakes, but making this dish it might help you understand why “British Cuisine” was such a laughing stock for so many years.
1960’s duck à l’orange. Bon appétit