Duck Tagine with Quince and Apricots

A very dear friend once said to me, after I’d served her a pigeon salad with orange and figs, “Susan, you pair meat with fruit more than anyone I know.” This is one of my favourite observations anyone has ever made about my cooking, and it is true that I love to pair meat with fruit.  That same friend is imminently expecting her first child, and I have been happily making and freezing meals for her and her partner in anticipation of their first couple of weeks at home with the baby. (I was born for this kind of task.) A few weeks ago, at Borough Market, which ordinarily is one of the most expensive food markets in London, I picked up three quinces for a pound. Earlier this week, I pounced on some Gressingham duck legs, which had been discounted at Waitrose. Gressingham duck is a cross between a wild mallard and a pekin duck, which means that it is a little bit less fatty than most duck you find in supermarkets, and its meat has a more gamey flavour. I use it whenever I can find it. Yesterday I emailed my friend, “I’m cooking you meat with fruit!”

This recipe is adapted from a lamb tagine I found in my favourite Moroccan cookbook, the marvellous Food of Morocco by Tess Mallos. Duck legs are browned in butter and then slowly stewed with saffron, coriander, ginger, onion, and cinnamon, and finished with meaty, tangy quince and sweet dried apricots. Crushed red pepper adds just a hint of heat. I’d never cooked with quince before, although membrillo, the thick plum-coloured quince paste sold in Spain by the slab and served with salty cheeses, is one of my guilty pleasures. (You can find a recipe for membrillo here.) The fruit is very hard and has a dry tang to it (i.e., is not to be eaten raw), but when cooked becomes soft and tender, almost like cooked pear, and takes on a dusky pinky-orange hue. It’s perfect with meat. Continue reading

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Duck Egg Pasta

I have already shared my stock fresh pasta method on this blog, but for the past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about making pasta using duck eggs. It is a simple truth: DUCK EGGS MAKE EVERYTHING BETTER. I have a friend who, when he dines out, literally cannot resist any menu item that includes a duck egg. For once I’m not talking about myself – but I too am enthralled by duck eggs. I love the iron richness of duck egg yolk and the way the yolk is so much more unctuous, so silky and luxurious, compared to the yolk of a hen’s egg. When you add a duck egg to something, the egg is the thing: it’s not just a garnish; it becomes the centrepiece of a dish.

Fresh pasta is best if it’s made with really nice eggs, so it stands to reason that it would be even more delicious made with duck eggs. Continue reading

Duck Confit

For something that is so delicious, making confit de canard is remarkably easy. The rich fatty duck legs are first cured in salt and then cooked very slowly in rendered fat, so that some of the moisture and natural juices from the meat are extracted and replaced by the fat. The legs preserved in this way can then be stored in your refrigerator in the fat, where they literally will keep for months. Continue reading