4 January 2016

Braised duck with peas

Braised duck with peas is something of a French classic, and is what we enjoyed for Christmas dinner chez Room for a Radish. Although fresh peas are in season in summer, the dish works equally well with frozen peas, and in many ways seems more suited to cold winter evenings than the summer. I take the legs off the duck and confit them - partly because I find the legs a bit dull braised, but mostly because I love confit duck. If you are in a hurry you can miss out the confiting. Depending on how many people you are feeding, you can either eat the confit legs with the rest of the duck, or save them for another day. The recipe uses a fairly large duck, and should feed four or five people, but if you have fewer diners simply purchase a smaller duck. The recipe also works nicely with mallard.

Braised duck with peas


1 large duck (approx 2.5kg) - preferably with giblets
50g diced pancetta or smoked streaky bacon
250g frozen peas
1 little gem lettuce
1 large onion 
3 cloves garlic
750ml chicken stock
600g duck/goose fat
50g fine sea salt
10g granulated white sugar 
2 juniper berries
black pepper
1 glass marsala wine
1 slug brandy
knob of butter

Duck with peas recipe

Confit duck recipe

The day before you want to eat your duck, remove the legs from the rest of the carcass. Crush 1 garlic clove and the juniper berries, and combine with the salt and sugar. Add a good grind of black pepper.

If you have the duck's giblets, you can also confit the neck. There is a surprising amount of meat on a duck's neck, and confited and shredded it is delicious. (If the giblets are in good condition, I thoroughly recommend making paté with the heart and liver - instructions below).

Place the legs and neck into a large freezer bag with the salt mixture. Massage the mixture into the duck, seal the bag and place in the fridge overnight.

The following morning, preheat the over to 150C. Take the duck legs and neck out of the bag and wipe off the salt mixture. Pack the legs and neck into an ovenproof dish, and cover with the duck or goose fat (most supermarkets and butchers will sell this). Place in the oven for about 2 hours. The fat should bubble gently during the process. If it bubbles fiercely turn the oven down.

When cooked, the confit duck should be tender and giving. You can either eat it with the braised duck, or save it for another day. If you are going to eat it within the next couple of weeks, it can simply be allowed to cool in its fat and then refrigerated.

Confiting is a very effective way of preserving meat, and confit duck can be stored for several months in a sterilised kilner-type jar. If you want to do this, remove the duck legs and neck from the hot fat using tongs and pack into the jar. Seive the fat into a saucepan to remove any detritus, then simmer for 10 minutes to remove any water and impurities. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Carefully pour the hot fat into the jar, making sure that the meat is fully covered. Seal the jar and store in a cool dark place. It should keep for several months.

To eat, remove the confit duck legs and neck from the fat, and cook in an oven at 200C for about 40 minutes until the skin has browned and crisped up. You may need to pour some fat off. Confit duck is delicious with puy lentils, the austere earthiness of the lentils making a great foil for the fatty richness of the duck. Shred the neck meat into the lentils.

Confit duck with puy lentils

The main event - the duck with peas

Preheat the oven to 180C.

If you have the giblets (and haven't used them to make paté), add these to the chicken stock and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Heat up a heavy casserole dish on the hob over a high heat. Check beforehand that your duck will fit in the dish.

Add a little duck fat to the casserole dish. Season your duck, then brown all over. Allow the duck to linger a little in the pan the so as to render most of the fat under the skin. Once browned, remove the duck and place to one side in a warm place.

Pour off any excess fat from the pan. Put the diced pancetta in the pan over a medium heat, and fry off for a couple of minutes. Dice the onion, turn down the heat under the pan, add the onion and sweat down. Chop the remaining garlic cloves and add to the pan. Once the onions are soft, add the marsala and a glug of brandy and allow to bubble vigorously until the liquid has reduced by about two thirds.

Return the duck to the pan. Add the chicken stock, and place in the oven for about one hour. If you are eating the confit duck with the braised duck, place the confit legs and neck in the oven 30 minutes after the casserole dish.

After an hour, check the duck is cooked by inserting a skewer into the breast. If cooked, the juices should run clear. If the juice is bloody, return to the oven for another 10 minutes.

If the juices run clear, add the peas, and return to the oven for 5 minutes.

Take the casserole dish out of the oven. Remove the duck, and place on a plate loosely covered with foil in a warm place.

Strain the stock into a pan, and place the peas and pancetta back into the casserole dish to keep warm. Wash and shred the lettuce and stir through the peas. If you are eating the confit duck with the braised duck, shred the meat off the neck and stir into the peas.

Boil the stock over a high heat until it thickens to a gravy-like constituency (about 10 minutes). Add a knob of butter and stir in. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Place the casserole dish over a low heat for a couple of minutes to warm the pea mixture, then arrange around the duck. Take to the table and serve, pouring over lashings of gravy.

The duck is delicious with gratin potatoes or potatoes roasted in duck fat.

Giblet paté - the chef's treat

Duck giblets - gizzard, neck, heart and liver

Many people pour giblets straight into the stock pan. There's nothing wrong with doing this, but if I get a particularly fresh looking bag of giblets I like to do a bit more with them. Duck liver and heart can be made into a tasty paté.

Trim any excess fat and large blood vessels from the heart. Melt a little butter in a frying pan, add a couple of sage leaves, and throw in the liver and heart and brown all over. Add a glug of brandy and flambé.

Meanwhile, melt about 75g butter in a small pan.

Place the liver and heart in a food processor along with a good grind of salt and pepper. Whizz and pour in the melted butter to emulsify.

Use a wooden spoon to push the paté through a seive into a clean bowl. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

The paté can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days, covered in a layer of clarified butter.

Enjoy on toast with a couple of pickles and some chutney.

Duck paté

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