Confit Duck with Damson Plums, Puy Lentils, Beetroot and Sage

This is not a sponsored post but this recipe is part of some paid work that I am doing separately with Honest Grapes, so in the interest of full transparency, I am declaring that. I wanted to share the recipes here too! Also to let you know about the online tasting (or! wine and food therapy session) we will be doing with the wines which I have developed these recipes to match.

You can read more about the wines here, and buy a package of the three for £65. I figure if we can’t go out as much as before let’s bring that good wine home! Wine (& Food) Therapy, 30th September: Niamh’s Wine Pairing Selection. The tasting and general chat will be on Instagram next Wednesday 30th September at 6.30pm.

Jump straight to the Confit Duck with Damson Plums, Puy Lentils, Beetroot and Sage recipe.

Autumn didn’t just arrive with speed, it knocked the door down and forced its way in. While we are now enjoying Summers brief blast of a second wind with a whopping 29C in London today (green tomatoes everywhere rejoice!), mornings and evenings are still Autumnal here. Even today, the day started cool, and will finish so. Leaves are on the ground, windfall apples and crabapples line the paths I walk in the park, the sun sets earlier.

But, Autumn produce is here. I love the seasons.

Autumn is a joy for cooks

Autumn at my local farmers market is a riot of colour and possibility. Pumpkins and squashes have started to arrive in myriad shapes, colours and sizes. End of summer tomatoes seem sweeter knowing that they are some of the last ones. Kales, chards, greens have taken centre stage, where they deserve to be. Best of all, bulging punnets of fruits abound. Plums, apples, crabapples! Damsons are in season.

If you are very lucky, there may be many wild damsons near you, weighing down boughs on country roads and laneways. Not here, in London there is the occasional tree but the early bird gets the worm and I am never early enough. In London, that bird might be a squirrel. September is their busy time and I see them clambering trees at pace, running up and down my fence when they are not. We get occasional oak seedings popping up and I know a squirrel has forgotten their stash. I am sometimes startled in the park by a squirrel dropping his acorns from on high.

I digress. Damsons! I get my damsons at the market. Round and velvet smooth, damsons, if you don’t know them, are a small deep purple juicy plum. Tending towards sour, they are perfect with duck. Better still, confit duck, which is one of my favourite things to eat and a great thing to have on hand for quiet evenings when you want something near effortless.

Duck and Damsons, a perfect partner for a gorgeous red wine

Duck and damsons together is perfectly fine and very delicious. A quick damson ketchup, tart with vinegar, is sublime on the side. Sometimes, that is all I want, maybe with some bright sprouting broccoli to complete it, or some wilted greens. I wanted to make a meal of it this time, for an Autumn heavy evening, to match with some lovely red wine. I reached for puy lentils, raw beetroot and red onions.

You need a little time, which onions always need in order to relax and yield their sweetness. It sounds like a bulky addition but they don’t need much supervision, and it is worth it. And you have a glass fo wine in hand, right? Or maybe a cup of tea. Either way, this should be relaxing.

Slow-cooked sliced red onion met pitted damsons which almost immediately soften, yielding deep violet juice from softened flesh. Lentils, cooked separately, because I don’t want the damsons to disappear in a mush, go in next, followed by roasted beetroot. I roasted the beetroot with the duck, it takes about the same time to soften, and if it softens more that is not a bad thing.

There is also that duck fat jacket to consider and it is glorious. Sage from the garden brings it all together with an earthy undertone and a lovely crisp texture on top. Sage grows itself like other hardy herbs, if you have room for a pot of it somewhere outside, I would recommend it. I had bright green pistachios from a local Turkish shop so I added them too, although they are not essential. This dish is about the duck and the damsons, the beets, lentils and the sage.

A gorgeous match for Jane Eyre Fleurie, one of the wines from my Wine and Food Therapy session with Honest Grapes. Ripe with cherry flavours, a touch of bacon and woodsmoke, I loved it. Come join us online on September 30th or just enjoy the wines at your leisure!

Confit Duck with Damson Plums, Puy Lentils, Beetroot and Sage

Confit Duck with Damson Plums, Puy Lentils, Beetroot and Sage

Ingredients

  • 2 confit duck legs
  • 150g puy lentils
  • 150g raw beetroot, peeled and diced into roughly one inch / 2cm chunks
  • 2 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
  • 24 damson plums, stones removed
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 12 sage leaves + 8 sage leaves for garnish
  • Olive oil
  • Sherry vinegar
  • salt

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 200C 

Remove the duck legs from the container they came in, reserving the excess fat. Put them in an ovenproof dish with room for the beetroot and enough fat to coat the beetroot also (a couple of tablespoons, roughly) and put them in the oven, for now without the beetroot. Add the beetroot about 10 minutes later with a sprinkle of salt, and spoon the melted duck fat over the beetroot before leaving them to roast.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a frying or sauté pan and first fry your sage leaves until crisp (just a minute) and remove gently to the side. Now add your onions to the pan and gently fry them over the lowest heat, stirring occasionally. We want to cook these slowly and gently. While the onions are frying, cook your lentils in boiling salted water until tender, about 20 minutes, which is just about when you will need them. When they are done (tender with bite), drain them and leave them to the side.

Back to the onions, after 15 minutes or so, as the onions are softening, add the pitted damson plums and stir through. After 5 minutes stir through the honey. It will still be sour and you may be tempted to add more honey, but the lentils and beetroot will disperse that flavour, and you want the acidity it to cut through the rich duck also. Stir through the drained lentils, and the 12 sage leaves which you can tear with your hands. Leave covered to the side but the duck should be almost done now. 

Once the duck is golden and crisp it is ready and the beets should be lovely and tender too. Stir the beets through the lentils and onions, check the seasoning for salt, and finish with a splash of sherry vinegar, to taste. Add a little at a time, remembering that the duck is fatty and a touch of vinegar will go perfectly with it. But, as always, to taste, so taste as you go and start with a little.

Serve the duck on top of the beet-damson-lentil mix and sprinkle with the sage leaves that you fried at the start. Add the pistachios now too if you are using them.

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Written by Niamh
Cooking and travelling, and sharing it all with you.