Warm Duck Leg Salad

With Coconut, Coriander, Red Peppers, Noodles, Chinese Cabbage and Honey-Glazed Cashews


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


Appears in



By Peter Gordon

Published 2005

  • About

Duck legs, like chicken legs, are a more muscular part of the bird and therefore tend to have more flavour than the breast, but as the muscle makes them tougher they benefit from being cooked slowly, as in this braising method. French duck confit (cooked in its own fat over a low heat for many hours) is perhaps the most common of European ways of cooking the leg, but I have had far more delicious legs in northern Thailand, where they were simmered in a wok-like pot in lots of duck fat with the addition of copious amounts of star anise, garlic and ginger. Either way, the lengthy cooking process required to get them tender is well worth it. If you don’t have the time, head to your nearest deli and buy some duck confit.

Black cardamom pods have a lovely earthy taste that imparts a subtle smoky flavour; if you can’t find them, don’t despair, simply use regular green cardamom and perhaps a pinch of pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika).how to extract coconut meat from the shell.


  • 6 large duck legs on the bone, each about 180 g
  • 1 medium-hot red chilli, quartered lengthways
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 6 star anise
  • 4 black cardamom pods
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 400 ml unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
  • 300 ml hot water
  • 200 g cashew nuts
  • 2 teaspoons runny honey
  • ½ teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 4 red peppers
  • 100 g rice noodles
  • 3 juicy limes
  • salt
  • ½ Chinese cabbage, shredded
  • 3 spring onions, thinly sliced and rinsed
  • large handful of picked coriander leaves
  • ½ fresh coconut, thinly shaved (or use a handful of wide-thread desiccated coconut) and lightly toasted


Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas 4. Heat a dry frying pan and brown the duck legs over a moderate heat on both sides, draining off the fat every few minutes. You won’t need to add any oil. Once browned, place them in a casserole dish large enough to hold them in one layer.

Keep ½ teaspoon of the fat in the pan and add the chilli, garlic, star anise, cardamom and coriander seeds, and sauté until the garlic is golden. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce and hot water, and bring to the boil. Pour over the legs, seal tightly with a lid or foil and bake in the centre of the oven for 90 minutes.

Mix the cashew nuts with the honey and oil and spread in a single layer on a tray lined with non-stick baking parchment, then bake for 12–15 minutes. The nuts burn quite easily, so you need to keep an eye on them, lightly mixing them on the tray from time to time. Once they’ve turned golden (it pays to break one open to make sure it’s coloured right through), take from the oven and let cool completely on the tray before storing in an airtight jar.

Grill or roast the peppers to blacken the skins, turning frequently, then place in a sealed plastic bag and leave to cool. Once cool, peel off the skin, discard the stem and seeds, and cut the flesh into strips.

Prepare the noodles by pouring barely boiling water over them in a heatproof bowl and leave to soak. Juice 2 of the limes and cut the third into quarters.

Once the duck legs are ready, remove the dish from the oven and take out the legs. Strain the coconut mixture through a fine sieve into a 1 litre jug and skim off the fat – there will be a lot. Add the lime juice, taste for seasoning and keep warm.

When the legs are cool enough to handle, remove the meat and skin from the bones and break or cut it into chunks – you’ll find it comes away easily. If you don’t like the idea of eating the skin then discard it, but it is very tasty.

To Serve

Drain the noodles and mix with the peppers, cabbage, spring onions and half the cashew nuts, then divide between 4 plates. Mix the duck meat with half the coriander, and place this on the noodles. Scatter on the remaining nuts, coriander and coconut, place a lime segment on the side and serve the coconut dressing in a jug.