Thursday, 27 March 2014

Sumptuously delicious duck ragu

I'm constantly on the look-out for new "meaty" pasta sauce recipes (after all, Jamie Oliver's salami-fennel pasta is an all time favourite of mine) and always wanted to give duck ragu a try, but never got round to making it until this week - and let me tell you: it was a TRIUMPH!! It's stupendously easy to make (the oven does all the work) - yet it has such a depth of rich flavors that you could be excused for thinking it had been simmering away in some Italian mamma's cucina for days! And, on top of that, it is extremely economical: it uses duck legs which are (at least here in Belgium) as cheap as chips because they are flogged off as merely a by-product of the ever-so-popular duck breasts: even the biggest, plumpest ones are never more than 3 € each. (I am, of course, a great fan of these "poor cousin" animal parts: whenever roasted duck is on the menu chez nous, I always have a leg, just shoved in the oven on a rack and roasted until it's really, really crisp - absolutely no work involved at all (while my husband has to first fry off his magret de canard for ages and then finish it in the oven...) And the same goes for roast goose: I always make a beeline for the crispy wings - DELICIOUS!! Oh and don't get me started on (pork or veal) chops - well, it's just like Harry Hill's dad used to say to him: "Apparently the best bit of a chop is that fatty bit down the outside with the bone, that round bit in the middle is quite poisonous apparently!"

But I digress so here's the recipe (which is from the great Australian chef Neil Perry's book Good Food):

4 duck legs, jointed into 2 pieces each*
2 carrots, diced roughly
2 sticks celery, cut into small pieces
2 onions, diced roughly
½ a head of garlic
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs thyme
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp flour
750ml red wine
750ml chicken stock
1 tsp olive oil

dried pappardelle/fettucine
parmesan cheese

(serves 6-8)

Marinate the duck pieces, vegetables, herbs, garlic, onion and wine in the fridge overnight. Remove the duck from the marinade, carefully scraping off the vegetables, and set aside. Strain the vegetables from the marinade and reserve both.

Preheat the oven to 180°/160° fan oven.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan with the lid (or a large-enough plate/serving platter) on. Remove the lid/plate, then brown the duck pieces on all sides (it's a good idea to use the lid as a "hovering shield" to protect yourself from the quite ferocious hot oil), then remove and put in a large-enough casserole dish.

Tip out the oil, leaving about a tablespoon in the pan, then fry the vegetables for 2 mns. Add the tomato puree and fry for another minute, then add both to the casserole dish, followed by the marinade, stock and flour. Give it a good stir and bring to the boil. Then put the lid on and cook it in the oven for about 2-3 hours until the sauce is reduced and the meat falls almost off the bone.**

Remove the duck pieces and shred the meat, then fold it into the sauce. Taste for seasoning.

*You don't need to joint the legs - but I find they fit so much easier into the casserole dish.
If there are big flaps of (superfluous) fatty skin attached to the legs you can snip them off (they can be rendered down in a clean pan on moderate heat later for lovely fat for roast potatoes).
**If the sauce hasn't reduced enough when the legs are done, simply lift out the meat, put the dish on the stove and reduce further over a moderate heat.


  1. Sounds delicious. We have been making duck ragu recently with great duck sausages we get from Chartres-based producer Cedric Chapuiseau, who comes to our local market in Croissy-sur-Seine and various other places in western Paris suburbs. It is quicker than the traditional way but end result is different, more like a sausage sauce obviously. Do Angel Hartnett's rabbit ragu fairly regularly -- that is good but have to be careful, it is more of a fresh, assembled sauce than a long-simmered one. Have gone wrong by overcooking once the shredded meat is in the pan, and by overseasoning rabbit legs at the start -- after concentration came out horribly salty. Of all the meats for a ragu I think hare gives the most satisfying results because it really is made for a long slow simmer

    1. Oh I just replied on fb that I SO remember your lovely hare ragu which you served many, many years ago (at Avenue des Scarabées)....

  2. I love duck and always order it when I see it on a menu, but I've never actually cooked it myself. This sounds like a great recipe for me to start with.