by Brian Turner from Great British Grub (Headline)
Photography: Noel Murphy & William Shaw
I remember at The Savoy we used to cook our duck with turnips, along with olives and cream. However, peas are traditional with ducklings as well – possibly because they are in season at about the same time of year – and that too became a popular braising combination. Lettuce was often added, which is a French touch, and indeed some old cookbooks describe the dish as ‘à la française’, in the French fashion.
Some recipes add cream to the peas and then purée them for a sauce, but I don’t think this is necessary. The simple step of braising them and the lettuce in with the duck gives an amazing flavour.
Preparation Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 105 mins
2 x 1.1kg / 2½ lb ducks, with giblets, or 1 larger 2kg duck
600ml / 1 pint duck or chicken stock
85g/ 3oz unsalted butter
225g / 8oz bacon in the piece, cut into stubby strips (lardons) of about 5 x 5mm x 25cm (¼ x ¼ x 1 in), or buy in precut lardons
175g / 6oz small button onions (12 plus), peeled
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 round lettuce, shredded at the last minute
450g / 1lb frozen peas
1 tbsp each chopped fresh sage, mint, & parsley
1. Take the giblets out of the ducks. Put the giblets into the stock and leave to gently simmer for 30 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3.
3. Melt 25g (1oz) of the butter in a casserole dish large enough to hold both ducks. Add the bacon lardons and button onions and gently colour on all sides. When nicely coloured, take out and keep on one side.
4. Prick the ducks all over with a fork, and rub with a little salt. Colour all over in the same dish as the lardons and onions, then take out of the dish. Drain off all the fat and put ducks back in the dish.
5. Strain the stock into the dish containing the ducks, bring to the boil and cover with a lid. Put into the preheated oven and cook for 1½ hours.
6. Add the button onions and lardons and braise for a further 15 minutes.
7. Take the ducks out and allow to rest, keeping them warm.
8. Remove excess fat from the juices in the dish, then add the shredded lettuce, peas and herbs. Simmer to reduce this sauce by a third. Correct the seasoning and consistency, then swirl in the remaining butter (to create an emulsion).
9. Carve the ducks and put on a flat dish. Pour the sauce over and serve immediately.
Nigel served his with mash, made from potatoes, or swede, turnips, celeriac or parsnips.