I chose completely the wrong time to make this dish. I had had a packed weekend with a Sunday evening flight to Berlin in preparation for work the next day. I was exhausted and erratic, but decided regardless I wanted to make a slow cooked meal, take pictures of it and eat it in about 2 hours otherwise I would miss the taxi to the airport and be late for said flight. Not my wisest moment. Saying that, in hindsight, it turned out well and I had a good meal before setting off on my travels, even if I did have indigestion.
There is something inherently special about duck to me. Growing up in the middle of nowhere we’d sometimes get a brace of wild duck from a local farmer after a shoot, which reminds me of autumnal Sunday lunches after a walk in the woods. Every now and then I also indulge in a Chinese takeaway, of which Peking duck is always the best part (tell me I’m wrong*). This recipe takes inspiration from those Asian flavours, but it still feels like nourishing home cooking, which I think I’m learning is what I’m all about.
The first time I made this I was truly chuffed with the results, so I hope you like it too. I served it with pak choi pan seared in plenty of toasted sesame oil. Toasted sesame oil is a fairly new revelation for me, but I adore it. It makes an enormous difference when compared with a more neutrally flavoured oil, adding a nutty depth to the character of the dish.
*I will allow arguments made for mussels in black bean sauce or some kind of dumpling too.
- 2 duck legs
- 1 onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 inch piece of ginger
- 2 dried chillies (fewer if you don’t like heat, more if you really really do)
- 2tsp Chinese five spice
- 1 bay leaf
- 1.5 litres chicken stock
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp hoisin
- 2 pak choi
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- Preheat your oven to 160°C/320°F.
- Begin by prepping the aromatics that will flavour your cooking liquor. Slice the onion, cut the ginger into matchsticks and cut both the garlic cloves and chilies in half lengthways. Because this is low and slow everything can be kept chunky and casual.
- Saute the aromatics until soft before adding the bay leaf and Chinese five spice.
- Drop in the duck legs and cover with chicken stock and the other wet ingredients.
- Bring to the boil then simmer in the oven for 1 hour. Leave the lid on for the first 40 minutes, before leaving it uncovered for the last 20.
- Once your time is up remove the duck and place skin side down on a plate to cool. Meanwhile turn the oven up to 200°C/392°F.
- To crisp up the duck’s skin – a key and very important step – brown the duck in the oven for about 10 minutes before finishing under the grill for a further 10. The duck should remain a reasonable distance from the grill – you don’t want it to smoke and burn, but you do need it to render out some of the fat whilst crisping up the top layer.
- Whilst the duck finishes wash the pak choi and cut them in half lengthways.
- Heat the toasted sesame oil in a frying pan over a high-medium heat, and add the pak choi in when hot, cut side down.
- After about 3 mins, or when the cut side has started to turn golden, add a splash of water to the pan to steam the uncooked greens.
- Once the water has evaporated season with a little soy sauce and serve alongside the duck.
- Carbs of choice here would happily be rice or crispy garlicky potatoes.