There’s a lot of nonsense talked about confiting duck legs, making a mysterious ritual out of what is, essentially, a very easy, straightforward process. All it means is cooking the ducks’ legs low and slow in duck or goose fat. Of course, you can go to the lengths of marinading them for 24 hours beforehand, and on rare occasions I have even gone so far as to brine the legs before the low, slow cooking bit (see note at the end of the recipe) – this has the effect of heightening the flavour and making the legs even more toothsome than the cooking process usually makes them. Otherwise, cooking doesn’t get much less labour-intensive than this.
I think that the legs of an Aylesbury-type duck are just as good, and cheaper, as your fancier Barbary, Muscovy or other varieties. They have more fat, but in this recipe more fat is better. Of course, you can cook a lot of legs at once and freeze the ones you don’t eat. You will need extra fat, and this is can easily bought in a good many supermarkets in tins. When you have finished cooking and eating the legs, keep the fat and use it for frying potatoes, putting on baked potatoes, spreading on toast, frying eggs or whatever. You could probably eat a telephone directory cooked in duck fat.
4 ducks’ legs
Salt and pepper
1 bunch thyme
400g duck or goose fat
Turn the oven to 150C/300F/gas mark 2. Lay the thyme all over the base of a roasting pan. Place the ducks’ legs on top. Sprinkle the skins with salt and pepper (go very easy on the salt if you’ve brined them first). Scoop the duck fat on to the legs, slip the pan into the oven and leave for three hours. This should be enough time for most of the fat to melt out of the legs, leaving the meat tender and tasty right up to the end. You can do this all a few days ahead. Keep the legs in their fat in the fridge until needed and reheat by frying them skin side down until hot through. This will also give extra crispness to the skin. Serve with a sharp salad and potatoes fried in, er. duck fat.
This simply means dunking the duck legs in a mixture of salt, sugar, water, mace, star anise, black peppercorns and bay leaf a time.
1 litre water
50g caster sugar
1 flake of mace
1 star anise
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
Bring all the ingredients to a boil, then take off the heat and set aside to cool. When cool, pour the brine over the legs and leave for 12 hours.