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A recipe for duck salad

Rose Prince conjures up a deliciously punchy duck salad for the long days of summer, featuring slow-roasted mallard that falls off the bone. Serves four.

duck salad

Duck salad

Pot roasted duck salad

For the confit:

  • 2 mallard, oven ready
  • 4 tbsp duck fat
  • 1 star anise, crushed in a pestle and mortar
  • zest of one lemon
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • ½ tSP sea salt

For the dressing:

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp large capers
  • 2 tbsp cornichons (baby gherkins), drained
  • 2 large handfuls flat-LEAF parsley
  • leaves from 2 sprigs tarragon
  • 1 tbsp chopped shallot
  • 3 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

To serve:

  • 16 asparagus spears
  • 8 radishes, thinly sliced
  1. Preheat the oven to 140°C. Rub the mallard with the duck fat, sprinkle over the star anise, lemon zest, black pepper, cinnamon and sea salt, then place in a heavy casserole with 180ml water. Cover with a lid and bake for 1 hour 30 minutes, or until the meat is soft and coming off the bone. Remove from the pot and allow to cool, then take all the meat off the bone, discarding any that is damaged or bruised. Set aside.
  2. Boil the eggs for 8 minutes, then cool in cold water. Peel them and separate the whites and yolks. Set the yolks to one side. Chop the whites and put them in a bowl. Soak the capers in cold water for 10 minutes and drain on kitchen paper. Roughly chop them and the cornichons, and add to the bowl with the egg whites. Chop the parsley and tarragon before adding to the other ingredients with the shallot, mustard, sugar, vinegar and olive oil. Stir to combine, then set aside.
  3. Steam or boil the asparagus spears, cut off the woody ends and divide among four plates. Scatter the sliced radishes over the asparagus. Warm the meat in a frying pan until lukewarm, then add to the plates. Spoon over the dressing, then grate the hard-boiled egg yolks over the surface. I suggest serving this duck salad with a side dish of new potatoes and floppy butterhead lettuce.

A word on duck salad

There was a time when I followed confit recipes to the letter. For those not in the know, it is a method of preserving meat that originated in France in the long, lost era before the invention of fridge-freezers.

The meat — which was commonly poultry, pork or rabbit — would be seasoned and salted, left for a couple of hours and then slowly cooked in a deep bath of duck or goose fat, sometimes pork lard. At this point, it could be sealed in jars and stored for months. Before cooking, the fat would be scraped off and the meat either roasted or added to casseroles, notably the famous south-western French dish, cassoulet.

All quite delicious, but I am not sure why contemporary cooks bother to make it when we can store cooked meat safely in a fridge or freezer before cooking. Pot-roasting meat until it falls away from the bone in small, tender chunks or threads works equally well. It can be adapted to game, using mallard — as for this recipe — pheasant, partridge or wild rabbit. Cooking times vary greatly for game, but essentially do not stop cooking the meat until it is genuinely soft.

The caper and parsley dressing for this simple duck salad is one of my favourites, based on another French classic, gribiche. It has a powerful kick of Dijon mustard and the saltiness of the capers and gherkins, but the eggs add a lovely richness, especially the yolks, which are grated over the top of the salad, mimosa style, to mimic the pretty yellow flowering shrub.