It was absolutely hammering it down yesterday. Winds howled, rain lashed against the windows and I was bravely battling my way to the shops. Though we're almost in Spring, this kind of weather calls for something warming and hearty to eat while slurping a robust red wine, feet in fluffy slippers. I rather like a Sunday of intense cooking or preparation as I have so little time to do so during the week, but yesterday was all about wanging a few bits and pieces into a casserole dish and letting it do its thing in the oven while I slumped on the couch.
The result astonished me - so little effort reaped great reward. The duck was crisp-skinned - let's, er, ignore that tiny burnt patch shall we? I'm still getting used to the electric hob. - and tender, absorbing the fragrant star anise and flavouring the lentils with its delicious fat. Amongst the lentils cubes of butternut squash sweetened the dish and gave the dreary brown some colour. Nothing more than than a lemony fennel salad was needed to wash down that richness.
Roasted Duck & Puy Lentils
2 duck legs
80gr puy (pronounced 'pwee') lentils
4 fat cloves of garlic
1 scant tsp smoked paprika
A large pinch of fennel seeds
1 chicken stock cube
1 star anise
3 tbsp Oloroso sherry
A small glass of red wine
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 small courgette, cubed
2 large tomatoes, quartered
A large handful of flat leaf parsley
Firstly, simmer the lentils for 10 - 15 minutes and drain. In a dry non stick frying pan, gently fry the duck legs skin side down from a cold pan (this helps render the fat out more effectively and crisp the skin up). This will take 10 - 15 minutes on a low heat. Don't be tempted to turn the heat up like I did... Turn the legs over and cook for a further 3 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C. Slice the onion into half moons and mince the garlic. Remove the duck legs from the pan and remove most of the fat, keeping 1 tbsp. Fry the onions and garlic slowly in this till soft. Add the smoked paprika and the pinch of fennel seeds, then add the sherry. Simmer until halved in volume, then add the red wine and do the same. Season generously with salt and pepper. Combine with the drained lentils in a casserole dish.
Add the cubed butternut squash to the lentils and mix well. Sit the duck legs on top. Dissolve the stock cube in 150ml water and pour this over the lentils, though this shouldn't go on the duck leg skin, just to the flesh. Nestle a star anise in between the duck legs and the tomato quarters in the lentils and put the lid on. Bake for 1 hour, then remove the lid and add the courgette within the lentils. This may need some jiggery pokery. Turn the heat up to 160 degrees C and roast uncovered for a further 40 minutes, checking that the lentils are wet enough that they don't stick and burn.
To serve, scatter with chopped parsley and accompanied by shaved raw fennel dressed with lemon juice.