Roast Duck Ragu with Polenta

duck and polentaI had a friend over for dinner. It was sort of a long overdue dinner offering that happened to also coincide with me finishing a bunch of DIY in my mini kitchen. It was a delicious little feast, and for the first time in ages, I cooked meat. So here it is, the first official meaty post in my nascent food blog.

The tomato sauce base of this has already been posted so you’ll want to make a batch of that tasty goodness. This will feed two.

Duck Ragu Ingredients:
150 g cherry tomatoes - halved
Flaky sea salt and black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
2 good sized duck legs
750 ml tomato sauce
Handful of good black olives - stoned
Small handful of chopped parsley to serve

Oven to 180°C. On a lined baking tray: season your halved cherry tomatoes, splash ’em a bit with some olive oil and roast them for about half an hour until they blister and practically collapse. Remove and set aside.

Now get your oven to 240°C. Take your duck legs and season them with some salt and pepper. Roast them on until the skin is lovely and crispy (10-15 mins, maybe). When all crispy, lower that oven’s temperature to 200°C and roast these bad boys for about an hour until they’re tender. When done, set them aside and save the cooking juices and meat drippings for later.

When the duck is cool enough to handle. Remove the skin (and eat it! Haha, that’s what we did) and pick off the meat. Roughly chop the larger bits so you get nice sized bits of meat. Set aside.

Get a large pot on the stove and at medium heat, now heat up your tomato sauce. Add olives, some black pepper and all the dripping and cooking juices from the duck. Bring the sauce to a simmer for 30 minutes or thereabouts until it is very thick. Ragu gloopy thick. Add the duck legs and cook this for a further 10 minutes. Just before you’re about to serve your ragu, stir in the roasted tomatoes and toss in some chopped parsley.

I served this with soft polenta. I am always making up my polenta to taste and by eye. But this is kinda what you need:

Soft Polenta Ingredients:
Polenta flour
Some sort of cheese - I went parmesan
Salt & Pepper
Unsalted butter

In a heavy bottomed pan, get some water to a boil. You’ll want to think of proportions of food to serving amounts I suppose. So a cup and a half of water per person. Get a whisk and vigorously whisk that water in one direction only, this stops the polenta from getting lumpy. Now carefully add your polenta flour a handful at a time while whisking. This stuff cooks and expands fast, and before you know it, you’re polenta’s too thick and you’ll need to add more water and end up with way too much polenta (which isn’t a bad thing, pour leftovers into trays and griddle the firmer polenta cakes the next day…I bloody love polenta)…anyway, one handful at a time. When it’s at the consistency that you like, add a load of cheese in to taste and season. Serve up with a blob of unsalted butter.

I also served the ragu with a side of griddled asparagus. You really don’t need to do much with these. Bend and snap off the chewy parts of the asparagus spears. Hot griddle pan. Splash of olive oil. Griddle them. Serve with sea salt and freshly squeezed lemon. You can serve these with shavings of parmesan as well, but with all the cheese in the polenta, I didn’t want to over parmesan the dishes out.

grilled asparagus

Basic Tomato Sauce

I go to Polpo. A lot. I like the chilled atmosphere and nice little martini bar downstairs. I love their little sharable dishes and tiny tumblers to drink wine and espressos out of…but mostly I like the small proportions because I get to eat more things. Anyway, they have a cookbook now and as well as giving away their secrets, it’s beautifully bound, filled with great pics and is fun to read. They have a good Basic Tomato Sauce recipe in it. Do you by a bottle of tomato sauce for your pasta? Why do you do that? This is much, much nicer. I’ve reduced the final amount, added booze, and more spices to this. But that’s what a good basic recipe should be: adaptable. Make this on a lazy Sunday and enjoy it throughout the week. Makes just under a litre.

Basic Tomato Sauce:
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion - finely chopped
1 garlic clove - crushed
1/2 tbsp salt - scant
A good cracking of black pepper
1 small red chilli - deseeded and finely chopped
A pinch of chilli flakes
375g fresh tomatoes - really ripe and sweet
1.5 tins/cartons of crushed  tomato - about 600g
1 small handful of oregano - fresh or 1 tbsp dried
1 bay leaf
A good glug of red wine
A bit of sugar - if you want, I didn't add this

Sauce pan on stove at medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. When at heat add your garlic, onion, chilli (fresh and dried), bay leaf, black pepper and dried oregano if you’re not using fresh. Stir and sweat ’em out. When the onions are glossy and translucent, get your fresh tomatoes in with the other tablespoon of oil. Cook for 15 mins.

Now add the crushed tomatoes and glug that wine in. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, lid on, leave for an hour. In the final moments, if you’re using fresh oregano (I mean, how hard is this stuff to find? Grow some in a kitchen pot for a constant supply), roughly chop it up and stir it all in. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Add a bit of sugar if your tomatoes aren’t sweet enough.

Pan off heat. Transfer into a blender or use a stick blender to whiz it all up. Done! You can strain this mixture further and add a bit more water to make a pasata if you fancy it.

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