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