Sunrise and sunset this time of year are pretty intense. The month of September saw that beautiful Indian summer stretch of weeks we all hoped and prayed for. The kids swam in the sea right up until last weekend and the water was still nice and warm. As much as I loved it, and long for it to be an annual extension of our sometimes lacklustre summers in Ireland, I was delighted to feel a chill in the air this week, as we welcomed in October.
Four years ago, we ventured down the road of raising ducks for the table. We decided to start with Muscovy ducks, and the result has been fabulous. These birds are excellent breeders, hatching two or sometimes three clutches (of ten or more ducklings) per year. Although everyone loves the ducklings there has been very little cause for upset with the kids when it comes time to process them for the freezer. Ron tackles the hardest part, the kill, the kids all do the plucking and have even started to help me with cleaning out the innards and loping for the giblets to make stock.
A few weeks ago, we had three or four ducks to process for the freezer, and instead of freezing them whole, Ron decided to try his hand at making Duck Confit, which you can buy in Sheridan’s Cheese Shop in town. The process is fairly simple, you render as much fat from the duck as possible, then cook the duck legs in the fat, low temperature and slow. There is a great recipe for this on the BBC Food website, if you feel like giving it a shot. I highly recommend it and the duck legs last for a month or longer stored in their own fat, in the fridge.
Once you have tackled this, then the very first dinner you need to make, especially now as the cooler weather has arrived, is a traditional French peasant dish called Garbure which is really just a thick stew of bacon, cabbage and stale bread with a few other delicacies thrown in for good measure. Let’s face it, we have no problem finding those three ingredients in most Irish kitchens.
Cooler Climes, Cozy Fireside Times Garbure
- 1 litre water
- 500g baby potatoes, cut in half
- 500g bacon (smoked is best)
- ½ head cabbage, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed or crushed
- 3 onions, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 turnip, peeled and chopped
- 500g frozen peas
- A bunch of parsley
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 200g of Duck confit, and the fat it is stored in
- 200g cheddar cheese, grated
- Several slices of stale bread, baguette is best
Place bacon and potatoes in a large soup pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Add the cabbage, carrot and turnip, and leave to simmer for a few minutes.
Sauté the onions and garlic in a little extra virgin olive oil, then add it into the pot, which now contains everything except the Duck confit, peas, bread, and cheese. Simmer, partially covered, for two hours.
Take out the bacon and slice it into serving pieces. Add in the duck confit. Salt to taste. Place all into a large casserole dish, layering the bacon, stale bread, frozen peas, and ladles of soup with all veg. Skim off the fat. The top layer is finished with all the cheese. Put dish in a hot oven until the cheese starts to bubble and melt.
Can be made a few days in advance and reheated. This is an excellent weekend project. Give it a whirl!