This recipe involves good things: wild duck, passata and pre-soaked beans. You can read more about how to prepare beans here.
It's wild duck season where we are - the time of year that the ducks have completed their mating cycle and are fattening up for winter. So, it's the best time to hunt them.
Meat isn't always thought of as being "seasonal", but we definitely think of it that way - not only in terms of what is available in the wild but also what is best for your body. High in B vitamins, protein and iron, duck is awesome in the lead up to winter. If you can't get them from the wild, their farmed counterparts are just as seasonally ideal right now.
We made this dish initially for our friend who was French and turning 30 - all he wanted was a cassoulet. So we hunted a wild duck and made it into a beautiful meal - and he said it was the best he has ever eaten. Now that, coming from a French man, is a pretty big compliment.
For us, meat is used to celebrate - it's something you share with "family", you use all of the animal and you honour it. When you hunt your own meat, prepare it and then make it into a meal - there is something really special about it, you see meat in a whole different light than you have before. It changes your perspective. And it's not something you can explain until you do it.
We only eat a little bit of meat and when we do hunt, we hunt during the day and they never see us coming. We make sure the animal is as peaceful as they can be.
We totally appreciate that not everyone can access a wild duck - so please adapt this recipe to suit you. Traditionally this dish is done with duck, but if you can't access it - you can use other meat like chicken (very much breaking French tradition saying that).
PREPARATION NOTES: We let wild duck hang in a cool place or cool room for a couple of days before de-feathering (with beeswax) and gutting. We then let it rest in the fridge uncovered for a day or two more before eating or freezing for later use. If buying farmed duck, get it out of any plastic wrapping to rest uncovered in the fridge for at least a day. This is a good trick for all plastic wrapped meat for best flavour and tenderness.
Preheat your oven to 170 degrees.
- In an ovenproof pot (we prefer enamelled cast iron) melt fat/lard/oil. Fry off the duck whole, top side down for 5 minutes, then breast side down for 5 minutes without moving it around, to crisp up the skin.
- Take the duck out and set it aside in a bowl. Add sausage/salami to pan, fry and then take out and set aside with the duck.
- Soften shallots/onion slowly to sweeten on low heat, don't let them brown. Add beans, celery/parsley bouquet, carrots and whole garlic head to the pot. Fry for a few minutes, then cover with stock (beans should just be covered).
- Bring pot to the boil and then let simmer covered for about an hour.
- Remove celery/parsley and add meats back into the pot then place in the oven at 150 degrees for 4 hours with the lid on. Check every hour to ensure beans aren't drying out too much. If they are you can add a little more stock.
- After 4 hours, mix in the passata and place pot back into the oven for another hour with the lid off. No more stirring! It will form a thick crust on the top when it is ready! No crust? Place back in the oven for a bit longer - the crust is key (although we forgot to take a photo at this finished point!).
Serve with some good sourdough bread, butter and a good glass of wine.
1 x Wild duck or small farmed duck, prepared and rested. *see preparation notes below
2 cups of white beans (uncooked, pre-soaked and drained)
Knob of duck fat, lard or butter or 1 tbsp olive oil
Sausage/salami chopped into small pieces
3 x large french shallots OR 2 x onions
2 carrots chopped into small pieces
Whole head of garlic
Chicken, rabbit or duck stock
2 x sticks celery and half a bunch parsley, left whole and tied together with twine