The night’s are slowly starting to draw in and if, like me, all you can think of are rich, comforting and sumptuous meals then this one is for you. Over the last couple of years I have eaten my way round game varieties and this is the recipe I keep coming back to. Give it a go and if you’re lucky I’ll even share my other game recipes over the coming season!
Wild duck is now in season so look out for it on your local market stalls. If you are based in or around St Albans, Ixhill Farm (@ixhillfarm) have a stall at the Farmer’s Market on the second Sunday of every month sell delicious, fresh, plump duck legs, whole duck and smoked duck which you must try.
The ingredients for this recipe can easily be doubled to feed a family of four or for a cosy night in for two follow the recipe below.
Ingredients- Serves 2
2 duck legs
1tbsp vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to season
1/2 onion finely sliced
2 garlic cloves finely sliced
2 celery sticks finely chopped
2 tbsp tomato puree
150ml red wine
A handful of finely chopped parsley
Pinch of dried oregano
400ml tinned chopped tomatoes
200g pappardelle pasta
1. Get cracking by warming up the oven to 180c/ 160 fan/ gas mark 4 ready for the duck to roast. Season the duck legs and lightly rub with the vegetable oil. Place on a rack or a baking tray and cook for 40 minutes. I use a rack so the juices from the meat can be easily collected for the next stage and to crisp up the skin. Do remember to check the duck cooking instructions as some cooking times will differ depending on the size of the legs; some duck will need an hour.
2. Remove the duck when ready and rest for a few minutes- check the juices run clear. When the duck is cool enough to handle (a bit longer if like me you don’t have asbestos hands!) take the duck meat off the bone and set aside- I defy you to resist the urge to have a nibble along the way! I also carefully remove the crispy, golden skin to use as ‘duck crisps’- all will become clear….
3. With the duck to one side, you can get started on the base for the ragu. Reserve a tablespoon of the duck fat and add to a heavy based pan (I look for any excuse to break out my Le Creuset!) over a low heat and sweat the onion, garlic and celery until they soften. Add the tomato puree and cook this out for 2 minutes- this avoids the metallic bitterness that tomato puree can often bring to a dish so it is worth spending a couple of minutes over.
Top tip: Remember that any remaining duck fat can always be saved for delicious, fluffy roast potatoes or a luxurious duck confit.
4. Add the parsley, a pinch of oregano and the wine and turn up the heat to reduce the wine by half. Add the tomatoes and duck meat and simmer on a low heat. Try and use the best tomatoes you can as this makes a world of difference to the end result- a tin of San Marzano tomatoes is perfect here for a well rounded depth of flavour if you can get hold of them, if not normal tinned tomatoes will also do the trick and give equally delicious results. Simmer the ragu for around 30- 35 minutes until the sauce thickens and has a glossy sheen.
5. When the ragu is nearly ready, bring a large pan of water up to the boil, add the pasta and simmer for 10 minutes or as per the packaging instructions. Do not overcook it! I like my pasta al dente so it contrasts with the texture of the ragu. Drain the pasta and serve in warmed bowls with the ragu- I do it the Italian way and add the pasta to the ragu rather than the other way around.
Now this is where the duck skin comes in! I cut the skin into shards and use them as a garnish. if the skin has not gone quite as crispy as you would like then pop it on a baking sheet in the oven at 180c/ fan 160/ gas mark 4 for a few minutes. It is a wonderful contrast between the rich, unctuous duck and the crisp, seasoned skin so do give it a go! You may also like to offer a light sprinkling of parmesan to serve.
This rich, luxurious ragu recipe will see you through the changing seasons and beyond!