Duck Confit

Duck Confit

As I mentioned in my last post, during January we are going to avoid meat during the week while continuing to enjoy it on Sundays. I had bought duck legs in the run-up to Christmas, thinking I would make duck confit. However, all the other Christmas preparation got in the way and I didn’t get round to it so I put them in my freezer.

Confit is usually the leg of a bird that is naturally fatty such as goose, duck, or even pork (pigs do fly in this house), that has been salted, seasoned, cooked and finally preserved in its own fat.

I read recently that you don’t have to make duck confit weeks in advance: it will taste delicious if made the day before you plan to eat it. With this in mind I defrosted six duck legs on Friday, salted them overnight, prepared them on Saturday and we ate four of them for Sunday lunch yesterday. The remaining two will reside in my fridge for a few weeks.

This wasn’t the first time I’d made confit but it had been a while so I read two or three recipes before starting. This is what I did:

Ingredients

  • 6 duck legs (mine were Gressingham)
  • 90g Maldon sea salt
  • About 1kg (I used 3 x 320g jars) of duck fat; you could also use goose fat
  • 6 garlic cloves, bruised but not peeled
  • 12 peppercorns, crushed
  • 6 juniper berries, crushed
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • 3 bay leaves, each cut in half
  • red wine
  • plum jam
  • granulated sugar
  • red wine vinegar

Method

  • Once the duck lugs had thawed on Friday I laid them in a dish in one layer and rubbed the salt into them. I covered the dish with clingfilm and placed it in the fridge overnight
  • On Saturday I spooned the duck fat into my large Aga roasting tin and placed it on the floor of the roasting oven for 5 minutes to heat the fat
  • Meanwhile I washed the duck legs thoroughly (this is important: you don’t want them to taste too salty) under cold running water
  • I then placed them in the duck fat with the garlic, juniper, peppercorns, thyme and bay leaves, covered the tin with foil and placed it on the floor of the simmering oven for 3 ½  hours (I’m sure I could have left them for longer); you’re aiming for tender meat so that when a skewer is inserted into the flesh it finds little resistance
  • I removed the tin from the oven and let it cool down for half an hour before lifting out four of the legs and placing them in a dish while placing the remaining two in a plastic container which had a lid
  • I strained the cooled duck fat over the legs in both containers. When everything was cold I fitted the lid to the plastic container and covered the dish and placed both in the fridge
  • On Sunday morning, about an hour before I wanted to cook the duck legs, I took the dish with the four legs out of the fridge and then an hour later I scraped the fat off each leg and placed them on the large Aga baking tray, lined with bake-o-glide of course
  • I roasted the legs near the top of the roasting oven for 25 minutes. While they were cooking I made a sauce which involved simply bringing to the boil on the simmering plate some red wine, plum jam, granulated sugar and red wine vinegar and letting it simmer in the simmering oven for 20 minutes or so

I  served our duck confit with the plum sauce, boulangère potatoes, red cabbage and broccoli. It was complemented by a superb glass from a bottle of the Italian wine Settebraccia. It comes from the Salento region of Italy and had been given as a gift to my husband. In future I will be more organised and prepare my confit a few weeks before Christmas so that I know I have at least one meal sorted for this busy season.

Jerusalem artichokes with fennel and peas

Jerusalem artichokes with fennel and peas

Having consumed during the Christmas period one massive turkey, a Norwegian spiced pork belly, a baked ham and a venison casserole, we are craving vegetables in this house. Sprouts, red cabbage, salads and lots of fruit also featured heavily on the menu but meat predominated. I’m not saying we’re going in for Veganuaray or any other New Year trend; it’s about needing to reset our dietary priorities. This month I’m going to cook without meat during the week but we’ll continue to have a roast or other meat dish on Sundays.

With this in mind I was delighted to pore over one of my Christmas presents from my sons: Joe Trivelli’s book, The Modern Italian Cook. I confess I was not familiar with Trivelli, who is head chef of the River Café, but I am glad to have been introduced. And Diana Henry, whose recipes you know I love, gave it a mention in her Telegraph column. If that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is.

It’s a beautiful book and I want to make everything in it but so far I’ve only got as far as making one of the dishes twice, first as a starter on New Year’s Eve and then last night we had it as our main meal with some fresh bread to mop up the juices. The recipe works well in the Aga.

Jerusalem artichokes with fennel and peas

Serves 4 (or 6 as a starter)

Ingredients

  • 500g Jerusalem artichokes
  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed
  • ½ large or 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 500g frozen peas
  • 10 mint leaves
  • 2 parsley sprigs or a handful of chopped parsley
  • 1 lemon
  • Sea salt, black pepper and extra virgin olive oil

Method

  • Peel the artichokes and cut into wedges. Keep under water to stop them discolouring.
  • Remove any stringy-looking outer parts of the fennel and cut into thin wedges. Toss in some lemon juice to prevent them discolouring
  • Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy-based, wide pan with a lid and sweat the onion with a pinch of salt. You could place the pan in the simmering oven at this point
  • Once the onion is soft add the garlic and a minute or two later the fennel. Stew with the lid on for five minutes (or longer if you put it in the simmering oven)
  • Add the Jerusalem artichokes, peas and some black pepper and continue to stew. Trivelli says to do this for 10 minutes over a low heat but my artichokes needed a lot longer than this (in the simmering oven) before they were soft. In fact, to try to speed things up I put the pan in the baking oven for a while. And Trivelli is right to say that Jerusalem artichokes cook unevenly: I found that when some wedges were soft and tender, others were still hard. But your patience will be rewarded, I promise you
  • Once your artichokes are cooked, check the seasoning, add your herbs and stir them through with some extra virgin olive oil
  • Serve with wedges of lemon to squeeze over