For the duck

  • 25g sea salt flakes
  • 2 tsp crushed black peppercorns
  • 4 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves plus 2-4 sprigs
  • 2 large or 4 small ducks legs (550g/1lb 4oz total weight)
  • 340g can goose fat
  • 300ml/½pint groundnut oil

For the madeira

For the cabbage

  • 4 shallots, peeled and halved
  • 5 juniper berries, finely chopped
  • 400g red cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • juice of 1 small orange
  • 25g large raisins
  • 1 tbsp redcurrant jelly


  • STEP 1

    At least 24 hours before serving, mix the salt, pepper and herbs, except the thyme sprigs, in a large bowl. Add the duck legs and rub in the herby salt until well coated. Cover and leave overnight or up to 24 hours in the fridge.

  • STEP 2

    Next day, wipe the salty mixture from the duck legs and place them in a single, tight-fitting layer in the base of a pan. Add the bay leaves from the bowl and pour over the goose fat. If it doesn’t cover the duck, top up with the groundnut oil. Cook over the lowest possible heat for 2½ hours, so the fat barely bubbles. The duck skin should be creamy rather than golden once cooked. Transfer the legs to a bowl and strain in the fat, pushing the duck under until fully submerged. (The duck can now be chilled and refrigerated for up to 1 month.)

  • STEP 3

    While the duck is cooking (or up to 2 days ahead of the meal), make the madeira gravy and cabbage. For the gravy, melt the butter in a small pan, add the shallots and cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring until golden. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring all the time, until the flour browns – take care not to let it burn. Whisk in the stock and continue whisking over the heat until slightly thickened. Add the madeira and cook for 2 minutes more. Strain through a sieve into a bowl. (The gravy can now be cooled and chilled for up to 2 days.)

  • STEP 4

    For the cabbage, scoop 2 tbsp of the goose fat from the duck as it cooks (if making at another time use olive oil) and put into a medium pan. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until softened. Tip in the juniper berries and cabbage and cook over a fairly high heat until the cabbage starts to soften. Stir in the vinegar, orange juice, raisins and redcurrant jelly. Cover and leave to cook for 15 minutes, stirring now and then until tender. (Cool and chill for up to 2 days if making ahead.)

  • STEP 5

    On the day, preheat the oven to fan 180C/ conventional 200C/gas 6. Remove the duck legs from the fat and wipe away any excess with kitchen paper. Put the duck on a wire rack in a roasting tin and top each leg with a sprig of thyme. Roast for 10 minutes, then add the creamy wild mushroom potatoes to the oven (see recipe, below) and cook with the duck for 30 minutes, or until the duck skin is golden. Meanwhile, reheat the cabbage and gravy in separate pans until piping hot.

  • STEP 6

    To serve, put a generous spoonful of cabbage on serving plates and sit the duck legs on top. Spoon round the gravy and serve with the potatoes. For a green vegetable, quickly stir fry some sugar snaps.


Cook the Madeira and cabbage as above, but for even more meltingly tender meat, cook your duck legs in your slow cooker. Salt them for 24 hours as in step 1 above, then wipe off the salt and place them in a single layer in your slow cooker. Add the thyme, bay and peppercorns and pour over the melted fat. Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours. Transfer the legs to a bowl and strain the fat then finish according to steps 5 and 6 above.


Chop 8 dried porcini mushrooms (ceps) and put in a large pan with 250ml milk and a 142ml carton double cream. Add 700g peeled, thickly sliced, rinsed potatoes. Simmer for 8 minutes until the potatoes are almost tender. Pour into a 1 litre ovenproof dish then cool and cover. This can be made a day ahead then refrigerated. Put the potatoes in the oven to complete for the last 30 minutes of the duck’s roasting.

Recipe from Good Food magazine, December 2003

Goes well with


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