Braised duck legs with spicy Asian flavours

My duck legs after 30 minutes slow rendering of fat,
dusted with five spice on a bed of vegetables and ready for a slow roasting

This is one of those recipes you keep up your sleeve for a cold winter’s night when you have work to do but you want to make something delicious. And you’ve just killed the family duck- only joking. It is anything but soft and warm outside. It is cruel, agitated, windy, dark and wet. On such days it is necessary to shut up shop early, crack open a good bottle of wine and have a recipe in mind for a hot meal.Having spent time harvesting an over abundance of lemongrass in the garden, I mentally planned out this hearty, healthy and fragrant dish, starring the citrusy lemon grass and slow braised duck legs.It's precisely because most cooks like breast that duck legs are sold separately and for less money.This does not mean low cost proof of inferiority - Nope.Duck leg recipes are eminently practical, and just as delicious as the all too swanky breast.However, cooking out the fat, a prerequisite to crisping the skin, takes a long time and requires patience.I am happy to anounce that after years of frustration I have finally mastered the art of crisping the duck. So first things first, open a bottle of wine,pour yourself a glass and enjoy.(its always good to have a bev on the go while you are cooking)I Must have been watching too much "Floyd on"...whatever.Duck legs are the easiest way to serve duck.Once you have rendered the fat out,they slowly roast in the oven while you run away and have some quality time.The trick with pan-cooking is to make the skin take most of the heat, but at a slow and steady pace so it doesn't cook too quickly. If it browns too fast too soon, it will blacken. Pan method. Heat: nice and low. Timing: with skin down, at least 15 and up to 25-35 minutes. Aim: a polished mahogany colour. Before turning: dust with salt and pepper, and with powdered spices if you like. After the turn: cook until it's... well, until it's done. Timings are impossible to dictate with accuracy, because so much depends on the type of bird and the length of skin-side cooking.

Braised duck legs with spicy Asian flavours
Serves 2  (adjust quantities accordingly for larger number of legs)

This came to me by default(what I had in the pantry and garden)remember those 5 jars of chinese five spice I found during my annual pantrification.
The flavours and aromas emanated exciting foreign flavours Vasco de Gama brought back to Portugal.
1 bottle of wine for imbibing
2 Duck legs
1 stick celery,finely chopped
1 carrot,finely chopped
Nub of peeled sliced ginger
2 Green chillis split open deseeded and chopped
2 sticks of lemongrass finely chopped
Tablespoon light muscavado sugar
2 cloves garlic, left whole
4 shallots,finely chopped
6 sturdy coriander stalks  finely chopped
Chinese 5 spice for dusting
60 ml Nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
dash of soya sauce
125 ml freshly squeezed Seville orange juice or half and half combination of sweet orange juice and freshly squeezed lime juice
500ml ( half pint ) home made chicken stock
175g (6oz) puy lentils (optional)

First open the wine and pour yourself a glass.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
Place duck legs skin side down in a cold cast iron skillet or casserole.Sprinkle with salt and pepper.Turn the heat on keeping it very very low.Allow the pan to come up to cooking temperature slowly.Do not to rush this step, otherwise, you won't render enough of the fat off and you'll over cook the skin.As the fat from the duck legs is rendered,skim it off and set it aside in a container for later roast potatoes.While the legs are cooking prepare all your vegetables and put them in a clean roasting tray.When the duck is cooked(approx 30 mins) and is going crispy(hurrah,a first for me)Drain the remaining fat off,remove the legs and dust them generously al over with chinese five spice mix,Place the duck legs skin side up on top of the vegetables.De-glaze the skillet with some chicken stock and set aside for later.
Mix the orange juice, fish sauce and soya sauce together and pour this mixture on top of the duck legs.
Cover tightly with tin foil or a lid and place in the oven for 45 minutes.
Remove the roasting dish from the oven,remove the cover and all the vegetables, baste the duck legs with the remaining pan juices and put the dish back in the oven to roast uncovered for another 45 minutes, or until the duck legs are tender and the skin browned.If the skin browns too much before the legs are tender, loosely cover the legs with foil, until they have finished cooking.While the duck is finishing cooking blitz all the vegetables in a food processor with some chicken stock to dilute it to a thick soup like paste.Set aside.(While the duck was cooking I cooked some puy lentils in the deglazed pan adding some more stock).
Heat the remaining chicken stock in a saucepan, and keep warm until ready to make the sauce.
When the duck legs are ready to remove from the oven, place the duck legs on a plate, pour over a little of the juices from the pan and cover and keep warm.
Put the roasting pan on the stove top and add two or three tablespoons of the reserved vegetable purée and the pre-heated chicken stock.Simmer this gravy until you have a sauce reduced to your flavour preference. Add more stock or water as necessary.  I made mine to a rich soup consistency.
Plate up the duck legs on top of some steamed bok choy kale or other greens then add the lentils if using and pour over the sauce. Garnish with coriander leaves and orange zest.

NOTE : You will have more than enough vegetable purée for your sauce so when cool, store it in the fridge and you will have the basis of a cook -in curry sauce for a another tasty mid-week supper.One word of warning you will now be using
the reserved purée in a more concentrated form therefore the degree of spice is intense and your curry will be comparable to a mild vindaloo,so if you you like a milder curry, temper the sauce with yoghurt or creme fraiche.Alternatively use a half and half quantity of purée and yoghurt.


  1. Absolutely gorgeous. Although for some reason in my head I have visions of a chorus line of duck legs - sort of Casa Rosarda Folies - all tarty feathers and packing a flavour punch.

    BTW - I think we may have been onto something with the pantone food matching . . .

  2. Thank you for the link.Funny you should say that.I was going to message you about some other sights on the same theme that I have found.I have set up a Pinterest board "Cooking with colour"-have a look and tell me waht you think.I am going to start blogging colour related recipes and then post them on pinterest with relevant swatches etc.Its quite a treasure trove out there,once you get hooked,which I have.Interestingly if you research the coeliac and gluten free diets-its all about colour.Gluten free products in the shops are all very beige but there are some wonderfully colourful recipes out there for those guys,so watch this space.How Green is my valley becoming?!!!!!


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