Cured Spring Duckling

This next recipe might sound like a French confit, but is in fact a traditional Welsh way with duck, curing it for a few days in salt. The whole duck used to be prepared this way, and served hot with onion sauce. This is a fabulous dish for winter, but generally now I use the legs for another dish, the carcasses for stock, and cure the breasts. The meat is delicious hot or cold. If I plan to serve it hot, I cook the breasts slowly, just in their own fat and juices, like a confit. For a cold dish, I poach the meat, cool it and then slice it thinly. A fruit chutney makes a most perfect accompaniment if served as a first course.

Ingredients

  • 6 duck breasts
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
  • 5 tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons light muscovado sugar

Method

Score the skin in lozenges, and rub all over with the pepper, salt and sugar mixed together. Put the meat in a covered container, and keep for one or two days, rubbing the mixture into the duck every 12 hours or so.

When ready to cook, rinse the duck under cold water and dry it very thoroughly with kitchen paper.

Gently heat a heavy pan with a lid, and place the duck, skin side down, in a single layer. When some of the fat has been rendered, turn up the heat and sear the meat on the other side for three minutes. Turn the duck breasts skin side down once more, turn down the heat, partially cover and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the duck is done to your liking.

Serve the meat in wide, shallow soup plates on top of asparagus, small onions, quartered trimmed artichokes, fresh peas and new potatoes, all cooked in duck stock. Garnish with fresh chervil or watercress.

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