There’s something wonderful about this dish; it’s not just that it tastes fantastic and looks great, but it also highlights the history of food and, more importantly, that cooks are the true scientists and heroes of the human race. A bold statement I know, but bare with me a while and I’ll explain….
In the late 19th century Louis Pasteur (the man who gave us safe milk and beer) explained the problem of bacteria and started the science of microbiology – ground breaking stuff I’m sure you’ll agree? The thing is the cooks of France had discovered the answer a few hundred years earlier; they just hadn’t bothered to name it. Bacteria have always been the sworn enemy of the cook for the food spoilage that they can cause and when we go back to the times before refrigeration this problem was way worse. The big question was how to make food last longer? The cooks realised that there was something getting into the food that made it spoil and that boiling it for a set time would sterilise it.
All good; unfortunately when the air came back in contact with the food it was reinfected, so the cook’s simple answer was to keep the food covered and only uncover at the time of eating. Job done! And only a few hundred years before science caught up. I can only imagine how many unwanted relatives were sacrificed on the taste- testing altar to work this out!
Thankfully, work it out they did and now we can enjoy this unbelievable taste. So follow the recipe and while you’re eating it just take a moment to reflect on the history of our food. Just remember that if you make confit of duck for a dinner party, make more than you need. The spares will keep in a box covered with duck fat in the fridge for weeks and will be there for that surprise occasion.
Duck legs are widely available in the Bay with my favourite being Quack a Duck from Cambridge (admittedly mostly because the name makes me smile but also because they are very good). Duck or goose fat is slightly harder to find and usually comes in tins, try Bel Mondo, The Good Food Trading Company or Culinary Council. The rest of the ingredients will be in every supermarket, your pantry and garden.
For me, the perfect wine for this dish comes from that amazing Bay of Plenty winemaker, Steve Bird. His Big Barrel Pinot Noir is one of the best I’ve ever tasted and a true match to the complex flavours of the duck.
Confit of Duck with Braised Butter Beans
10 duck legs, marinated
Marinade for Confit:
A few sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
12 fresh basil leaves
20 black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 shallots, chopped
3cm fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
20ml Worcestershire sauce
20ml soy sauce
20ml balsamic vinegar
30ml white wine vinegar
30ml The Grove horopito infused Avocado oil
2 tablespoons sea salt
2-3kg goose, duck or pork fat to cover
75ml clear honey
Mix all marinade ingredients together and marinate duck legs for up to 3-4 days.
Melt fat in a deep tray. Add marinated meat and cook in a pre-heated oven at 170˚C for 2 hours. Check that legs are cooked, and then allow to cool in the fat. At this stage, the confit will last weeks in the fridge, if kept covered in fat, ensuring a total air seal forms. When needed, simply remove from fat and cook under a HIGH grill for about 8-10 minutes, or until the skin goes crispy.
Braised Butter Beans
2 onions, chopped
4 rashers smoked bacon, cut into strips
2 tablespoons Avocado oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
16 fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 bay leaves
300g dried butter beans
1 – 2 litres chicken stock
4 Roma tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and diced
Sweat the onions and bacon in the olive oil and butter for a few minutes, then add the basil, bay leaves, garlic and butter beans. Cover with 1.25 litres stock and bring to the boil. Cover and cook in a pre-heated oven at 180˚C for 1 – 1½ hours until the beans are tender and have created a thick sauce. (You may need to add a little more stock during the cooking process.) Add tomatoes, season and serve with duck legs.