Duck legs are one of my most favourite things to eat. At a pub I used to work in a few years ago they used to get duck legs from a local butcher that were cured and they were the most delicious flavour!
So when I saw Fergus Henderson’s recipe for brining duck legs I had to try it! I love his St. John’s restaurants and the food they serve so I was excited when I saw his cookbook (and him!) at the lovely Wilderness Festival last summer where he had a pop up restaurant. There’s something very special about his food; it seems to combine hearty meals with a real fresh and clean finish in a way that you don’t get very often. I’ve never come away from one of his restaurants feeling as though I’ve over indulged on rich food where as if I’d eaten the same ingredients cooked at another restaurant I’m sure I’d leave feeling exactly so.
‘Nose to tail‘ is a great book to have on the shelf and you mustn’t worry if the ‘lamb brains’ section doesn’t do it for you – there’s plenty of other less scary recipes in there!
I brined my duck legs a week before I wanted to cook them. In a large pan bring to the boil 400g caster sugar, 600g seasalt, 12 juniper berries, 12 cloves, 12 black peppercorns, 3 bay leaves and 4 litres of water. Decant into a container and when cold pop your meat in and leave to brine for as long as needed.
Cooking the duck legs
The recipe I use from ‘Nose to Tail’ was for poaching the the salted duck legs. Rinse the duck legs and put in a large pan with 1 whole garlic bulb (I used a smoked one), 2 whole peeled carrots, 2 cleaned leeks, 2 sticks of celery, 2 peeled and halved onions, 2 bay leaves, 12 peppercorns and a good bunch of fresh herbs. Cover with fresh clean water and bring to the boil then simmer for 1 – 1&1/2 hours until the meat is falling off the bone.
Serve the duck with some braised lentils and if you like, the carrot and soft garlic from the poaching pan and some wilted spinach. Also sprinkle with chive flowers for prettiness if you have any! And I can thoroughly recommend eating this dish outside on a lovely summer evening – it was actually not only our first alfresco dining at home this year but also our first alfresco dining at this house!