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Danish Christmas Roast Duck

For a turkey alternative or an added addition to the Christmas dinner table why not try roast duck - it can be cooked the day before and reheated before the family gather around the table.

Danish Christmas Roast Duck

Serves 4


1 duck, about 3 kg
3 apples (sour is best, such as Granny Smith)
2 handfuls of dried pitted prunes (approx. 200 g/7 oz.)
½ orange
salt and freshly ground black pepper
butcher’s string or meat pins
roasting pan with a rack meat thermometer


Make sure the duck is clean of any straggly bits, inside and out. Reserve the giblets and cut the end wing tips off (there’s no meat there, but you can save them for the gravy). Pat the bird dry using paper towels. Peel and chop the apples and stuff the duck’s cavity full to the brim with them, as well as the prunes and the orange half. The orange won’t give any flavour, but works with the apples to keep the duck moist.

Close the cavity with butcher’s string or meat pins. Rub the skin of the duck very generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper (mix the two together before rubbing), both on the top and underneath.

Preheat the oven to 130°C (275°F) Gas 1.

Pour 500 ml/2 cups water into the roasting pan and place the duck breast-side down on the rack. Roast for an hour, then turn the duck breast-side up for the remaining roasting time of around 3 hours. Baste the duck as you go along, but don’t worry too much if the skin isn’t crispy, as you will finish it off in the oven at a higher heat. Keep checking the temperature – the duck is done at 72–75°C/161–167°F. The roasting time is not clear cut, as this depends on your oven and the size of the duck, so do check. A good rule is 1½  hours per 1 kg/2 lb. 4 oz. when roasting at a low temperature. It may need less or more time but calculate to start your duck around 5–6 hours before you want to serve it, to include resting time. The juices need to run clear when you cut into it, and the bird needs to be cooked through.

Leave the duck for at least 30 minutes to rest, then cut into the legs and breast to get 2–3 pieces from each side. Leave the skin on.

To reheat before serving, pop the duck back into the oven at 120°C (250°F) Gas 1/2 for 20–25 minutes to give the skin a chance to crisp up and to heat through before serving. If it needs a bit of help to become crisp, a few minutes under the grill/broiler works.

Serve with gravy made from duck stock, browned potatoes and red cabbage.

Recipe from ScandiKitchen Christmas: Recipes and traditions from Scandinavia by Bronte Aurell, photography by Peter Cassidy. Published by Ryland Peters & Small (£16.99)