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Mix the peppercorns, bay, shredded thyme, garlic and salt, then scatter a third of the salt mix over the base of a ceramic dish. Add the duck legs, skin-side up, in a single layer, and scatter over the remaining salt mix (Step 1, above). Cover with cling film and chill for at least 24 hrs.
Heat oven to 140C/120C fan/gas 1. Brush off any undissolved salt mix from the duck (Step 2). Tip the duck or goose fat into a large ovenproof pan and melt completely over a low heat until clear and just starting to bubble. Turn off the heat and slip in the duck legs (Step 3) – they need to be completely submerged, so top up with oil if required.
Put in the oven and cook for 2 hrs or until a skewer inserted in the duck meat goes in really easily (Step 4). Leave the duck legs to cool in the fat. When cool enough to handle, lift them back into the cleaned dish they were salted in. Pour the fat back over the duck legs (Step 5), trying to avoid the duck juices at the bottom of the pan. Cover with cling film and chill for 12 hrs or up to 2 weeks.
Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. To make the potato cakes, boil the potatoes whole until just tender. When cool enough to handle, peel and coarsely grate. Mix the potatoes with 1 tbsp of the duck fat, the parsley and garlic, then season. Divide the mix into 4 and flatten into patties.
Pull the duck legs out of the fat (Step 6) and place, skin-side up, in a shallow ovenproof dish. Roast for 20 mins or until crisp all over. While the duck is cooking, heat a bit more of the duck fat in a frying pan and cook the potato cakes for 5 mins on each side until golden. Sit the duck on top of the potato cakes and serve with a few salad leaves around the plate.
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