The meat content of a whole duck is low, which is why breasts (magrets) are so popular, while legs are an economical way to produce a delicious meal. Many different varieties of duck are cooked in France. The renowned breeds are Barbary, which are raised in the wild and have a gentle musky flavour, Nantes (or Challens, named after the marshland area where the duck lives), which has a delicately flavoured flesh, and Rouen, the most well-known, which has an exceptionally fine flesh and a special flavour because it is killed in such a way (smothering) that the blood remains in the muscles.
1 tbsp olive oil
6 duck legs
freshly ground black pepper
6 shallots, peeled
12 baby turnips, trimmed
1 large cooking apple, peeled, cored and chopped
20 g flour
300 ml cider
100 ml vegetable stock
1. Heat the oven to 200°C/gas 6.
2. Place the olive oil in a large, heavy-based roasting tin and heat in the oven for 5 minutes. Stab the duck legs all over with a fork, rub with seasoning, then place in the roasting tin and cook for 20 minutes.
3. Turn the duck legs, and add the whole shallots and turnips to the roasting tin. Baste with the fat, reduce the heat to 180°C/gas 4 and roast for a further 20 minutes.
4. Turn the duck legs again, and add the apple, moving the roasting vegetables to ensure they cook evenly. Roast for a further 20 minutes or until the duck is golden and crunchy and the vegetables soft and browned.
5. Remove the duck and vegetables from the roasting tin and place them on a warm serving dish. Drain off excess fat (reserve it for roasting or sauteing potatoes) and add the flour to the tin, mixing it in vigorously to make a roux. Then slowly add the cider and vegetable stock, stirring well to mix in the roasting flavours in the pan.
6. Place directly over a medium heat and bring to a simmer, constantly stirring. Check the seasoning, pour over the duck and the roasted vegetables, and serve.
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