As the game season continues, duck has become available in butchers and some supermarkets.
Wild duck has a stronger flavour than farmed duck and a dense aroma when cooking. However, one way to intensify the flavours of any meat is to prepare it as a confit. This method is a perfect way to serve duck, as it also ensures the meat is tender and succulent. It is also ideal for those who prefer their meat presented without any trace of blood.
There are a few elements to this recipe and, as with a lot of my food, a fair amount of preparation will ensure great end results. However, the recipe can be prepared in stages.
This recipe for wild mallard duck necessitates that the duck be ‘deboned’. Your butcher may do this for you, if asked nicely. However, if you want to give it a go yourself, this guide is easy to follow:
1. Remove the wishbone
Place the bird with its cavity facing away from you. Feel around its collar/ neck to find the wishbone and cut around it with the tip of the knife. Take a firm grip of the bone and give it a sharp tug. It will pop out.
2. Remove the legs and thighs
Place the cavity facing away from you. Cut through the skin between the thigh and the body of the bird, on the left hand side as it faces you. Pop the hip socket, put the bird up on its side and proceed to cut close to the bone. Extract the ‘oyster’ as you go. Cut through the ball and socket joint; at no stage will you have to cut through bone. Turn the bird over and do the same to the other side, this time with the cavity facing you.
Place the cavity facing towards you. Feel the bird to find where the divide is between its breasts. Cut down the left hand-side of the divide, close to the bone. Follow the rib cage with your knife. The breast will come away easily when you cut through the shoulder socket. There should be no meat remaining on the carcass.
4. Boning out the thighs
For a mallard, or anything smaller, only bone out the thigh. Following the line of fat in the thigh, scrape the flesh gently until the thighbone is visible. Free it from the thigh and then pull it back a little to reveal the joint. Cut through the joint.
5. Preparing the breast
Clean the skin, remove the veins from the breasts, and trim the fat around the edges.
Wild mallard duck with puy lentils; serves four
1 bunch of thyme
2 bay leaves
24 whole black pepper
2 garlic bulbs, cut in half
500ml olive oil
1l sunflower oil
1. The duck meat should be marinaded for two days. First, mix up the marinade, then place the duck breasts flesh side down on the rock salt for ten minutes. Then remove, wipe off all the salt, and score the remaining fat on the breast without cutting the flesh. Place the legs and the breasts in the marinade.
Confit of duck legs
½ tsp ground cumin seeds
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp finely crumbled dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Garlic from the marinade
250g duck fat (for the confit)
1. Preheat the oven to 135C.
2. Remove the duck legs from the marinade, draining any excess liquid. Mix all the spices together and rub them on the duck legs.
3. Place the duck legs and garlic cloves in a large pot and cover with the duck fat, ensuring that the pot is not filled beyond three-quarters full.
4. Place the pot on a low heat until the duck fat has melted. Then cover the pot with a lid and place it into the oven and cook until the garlic cloves have turned a deep golden colour, which will take about two to two-and-a-half hours. Let the meat cool in the fat for a few hours.
Confit is also a great method of preserving meat. If you are making this recipe in advance, you can place the duck legs into a clean preserving jar, cover with the duck fat by at least three centimetres, and refrigerate for up to two months. Allow meat and fat to fully cool before refrigerating.
Confit of duck parcels
Confit of duck legs
50g duck fat
1 shallot diced
1 carrot diced
1 parsnip diced
1 head of leek diced
2 sprigs of tarragon
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
20ml of duck stock
4 large spinach leaves
1. Place a little duck fat in a pan along with the shallot, carrot, parsnip and leek. Add the duck stock and cook for about ten minutes.
2. Remove the duck leg from the duck fat. Remove the rest of the bone from the meat (it should come away easily). Add the duck pieces to the pan; taste and correct the seasoning, add the chopped tarragon and mix well. Taste and correct the seasoning. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
3. In a pot of water, add the picked spinach leaves and blanche for a couple of minutes, remove and refresh in cold water.
4. Squeeze the spinach leaves to remove the excess water, and lay them flat on a sheet of cling film. Season each leaf lightly, and fill the centre with a spoonful of confit mix.
5. Cut the cling film around each leaf so that you can fold each leaf into a parcel shape. Seal the cling film by rolling the ends.
6. Heat the parcels in a shallow pot filled with water on a medium heat for about ten minutes. Remove from the water and peel off the cling film. Brush with melted duck fat, and they are ready to serve.
100g chopped pistachio nuts
Sea salt and fresh milled pepper
1. Heat the oven to 170C. Then place the breasts fat side down in a warm pan over a low heat, then sprinkle flesh with black pepper.
2. Drain off fat as often as possible, until the edge of the breast is crispy and no visible fat remains.
3. Once fat has been rendered down completely, allow the breast to rest for up to an hour. If you leave it any longer the flesh will become tough.
4. Spoon over the honey on the breasts. Sprinkle with finely chopped pistachios. Place it in the preheated oven for five minutes.
5. Remove the duck from the oven and sprinkle again with pistachio nuts and let rest for two minutes.
200g puy lentils
1 diced shallot
½ crushed garlic
Knob of unsalted butter
1 small bunch chives
100ml duck stock
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1. Wash the lentils, then cover with water for two hours.
2. Melt a small amount of butter and add the shallots and crushed garlic. Strain the lentils, add them to the pot and cook over low heat for two minutes.
3. Season lightly and add the duck stock and bring it to the boil. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the lentils are soft, then add the chopped chives.
Place the confit parcel in the centre of the plate, slice the duck breast and place it on top, arrange the lentils and serve.