Saturday, 3 February 2007

Duck Pies

Mmmm. I love duck. I love pies. The logical progression? A pie that is filled with duck!
My best friend Tam and I have both been known to utter an involuntary 'Yum' as we pass innocent (and possibly protected) duckies, swimming or waddling along, oblivious to the danger they face in our presence. I can't help myself. I see cute little feathered animals and some hidden switch in my head immediately flicks to 'lunch'.

This particular recipe comes from a friend of my mother's. She passed it on to me on condition of a promise that I will never publish it anywhere or pass it on to anyone I know. Serious stuff. Given the threat of death, I will refrain from sharing its recipe in its entirety, however I can tell you that the filling is a delicious combination of Asian condiments, Chinese BBQ duck, and a small member of the onion family. Give it a go.

Despite the exquisite outcome, the production of a large quantity of the pies has been for me and my devoted, pastry-cutting minions, an exhausting task. I first attempted the bite-sized morsels of quacky goodness for a good friend's engagement party. His mother was doing most of the catering, and given my culinary reputation amongst my friends (sorry, modesty not a virtue) I felt the need to offer a contribution. I had tasted the pies a month earlier and already begged its owner for the recipe.

After the offer, I forgot about the whole thing for a couple of weeks. Until that is, I next spoke to my friend, let's call him James, to discover that the Engagement Party's guest list had blown out to 130. "Eek," was my private response. Still, alarm bells weren't quite ringing loudly enough to deter me from the task. How bad could it be? A few ducks, some mini muffin tins, a bit of pastry? "No sweat," declared my cocky self to the grateful James. I'd catered before, spent three days cooking for a 30th when I was 36 weeks pregnant, in fact. I was sure I could handle it.

As soon as I actually sighted the recipe, the volume of the alarm bells increased from a faint, wind-chime like tinkle, to a living next door to the airport, jet-engine roar. "Makes sixteen entree-sized pies". The recipe, amongst it's other important ingredients, listed one Chinese BBQed duck.

"Okay," I rationalised. "Let's not panic." I was, after all, not making entree-sized pies. I was making mini pies. Using mini muffin pans. If one duck made sixteen entree-sized pies, then I should be able to get at least 24 mini pies to a duck. After a brief discussion with James, I calculated that I should be able to get away with four ducks, to make around 100 pies. Didn't matter if there wasn't enough for one each. There were a number of vegetarians (heathens) invited and a few people (crazies) didn't like duck, so we'd be right.

I enlisted the help of a friend, who had volunteered herself and her boyfriend to fill the muffin holes with pastry, while I filled, topped and cooked the pies. It started relatively simply. A one and a half hour round trip to Box Hill, chiller bag and infant in tow, to buy the ducks. Luckily I used to work in the area and knew where to park. Once home, the ducks were deboned and chopped (juices reserved) in a little over an hour. They were then refrigerated overnight, due to an ill-timed dinner invitation. The following morning, the unpaid help arrived and I set to work making the filling. Half an hour later, we began to fill the pies. Luckily, the recipe calls for store-bought puff pastry sheets, so it was just a matter of cutting out the bases and lids with cookie cutters, filling the pies, trimming to make them look pretty, basting with egg wash and placing in the oven for around ten minutes. Easy, right?

As I began to fill the pie trays, I noticed that each little base was taking around a teaspoon of the pie filling. I had a very large pot of filling (four ducks, remember) and only seven mini muffin trays. I had expected that there would need to be some rotation of trays, but after half an hour of filling pies and baking had made barely a dent in the vast quantity of filling before me, I began to get nervous. There was no way I was going to waste any of that gorgeous (not to mention expensive) filling when I knew that there were 130 duck-hungry (minus a few weirdos) mouths to feed in a few short hours.

So on we worked. We cut, we pressed, we filled, we forked and we basted. We went to the supermarket for more puff pastry. We voted (the party happened to fall on the day of the Victorian State Election). After four and a half hours, we had around 200 duck pies in containers and trays filling our usually ample fridge. And about minus 30 minutes to get to the party on time. I barely had time to wash the eu de canard from my hands and we were out the door.

The effort was certainly well appreciated (but probably not with a full understanding of the scope of my team's efforts - nobody likes a whinging gift horse) and the pies a hit. There were 12 left over, and I brought them home, revelling in the memory of the many accolades my contribution had received.

It was probably the buzz of victory (and possibly that of the champagne I was quaffing) that lead to my next dubious offering on Christmas Day. My brother's lovely financè was talking about the date of their engagement party, planned at her parents' home, her mother intending to do most of the catering herself.....

You can see where this is heading. The party was last night. Miracle of miracles, the same friend offered her support. The pies, again, a hit. And my maths is improving. I halved the recipe.

The resulting pies, cooling:

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Disappointing... after reading all this no recipe ...seriously? :-(