Season’s best… Recipe inspirations from Exeter Cookery School


Located on the city’s picturesque quayside, Exeter Cookery School courses take great inspiration from south west France, where founders Jim and Lucy Fisher used to run a residential cookery school. For a tempting seasonal treat, try out the following classic recipes from the Dordogne.

Confit de Canard

Sarlat, a beautiful medieval town near to where we lived in the Dordogne, SW France, has around 60 or so restaurants. Confit – a dish of salted duck legs cooked and preserved in duck fat – is served in every single one of them.

Ubiquitous to the point of obsession, it just happens to be one of the tastiest and most gratifying dishes of the region. Packed into sterile jars along with its cooking fat, Confit will keep in a cool place for up to a year.

We serve Confit, as the Dordogne locals do, with Pommes Sarladaises, a dish of sliced potatoes and garlic fried in – surprise, surprise – duck fat! 

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Ingredients (Serves four)

  • 4 duck legs, skin on
  • 4 tbsp sea salt
  • 1.5 ltrs duck or goose fat (use lard or even vegetable oil at a push) 

Method

Rub the salt into the duck legs. Place them in a glass or stainless steel bowl, cover with clingfilm and allow to cure overnight in the fridge.

Drain the legs, discarding the liquid left behind, and rinse well in plenty of clean water.  Pat dry.

Gently melt the duck or goose fat in a large saucepan and immerse the legs in the fat. Simmer very, very gently for three hours, checking them every hour to make sure they aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pan. When fall-off-the-bone tender, turn off the heat and remove the legs (at which point you can pop them under the grill to crisp the skin and serve straight away) allowing them to cool to room temperature.

When cool, place in plastic containers. Keep in the fridge for up to a month or freeze them.

To serve, allow the Confit to soften to room temperature, then remove them to a roasting tray. Re-heat gently in a medium-hot oven (170°C), then grill the skin until brown and crisp.

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Pommes Sarladaises
(pronounced “Pom Sarladez”)

The ‘mashed potato’ of south west France, Pommes Sarladaise is served in every one of Sarlat’s sixty or so restaurants.  Ubiquitous to the point of exhaustion this filling local staple is, nevertheless, fantastic if made well.

Basically, the dish is just potatoes and garlic sautéed in duck or goose fat, but of course you could use olive oil for a healthier alternative.

My version contains sautéed onion and some parsley, or basil.

Ingredients (Serves four)

  • 1 to 1.5kg potatoes, peeled and sliced to the thickness of a Pound coin
  • 1 onion, peeled, halved and finely sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • handful of roughly chopped parsley or basil
  • 3 tbsp duck or goose fat or olive oil

Method

Heat the olive oil in a roomy non-stick frying pan, then throw in the potatoes, onion and garlic. Fry over a low to medium flame for between twenty and thirty minutes, tossing every five minutes or so until the potatoes are tender.

Season well, then toss with the parsley or basil.

Now let the potatoes sit in the pan on the heat until brown and crisp on the bottom.

Serve spooned into a warmed serving dish with the browned bottom uppermost.

Inspired to find out more? Why not book onto one of Exeter Cookery School’s fab cookery courses, many of which take inspiration from Jim and Lucy’s time in the Dordogne. You can learn how to make the confit duck dish – as well as a melt in the mouth leg of lamb and sensational steak frites – on their French Bistro Mains cookery course.

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