Monday, 24 December 2012

Duck with lentils and cranberries

I've been having a break from blogging, largely because I've not been cooking anything out of the ordinary recently. And, as an amateur, I was beginning to wonder whether anyone trusts recipes from people who aren't well known chefs. I know I don't always trust them.

Having said that, sometimes I want to cook something that I've thought of without referring to a set recipe. I like the creative process of thinking about a dish and how I could make it work. When I'm in that mood I'll Google the combinations I'm thinking off to see if they've been done before, just to confirm I'm not going to cook something stupid.

So yesterday I ended up googling lentils with cranberries. We had some mini duck fillets in the freezer and some lentils in the cupboard and I wanted to combine the two. Turns out lentils with cranberries isn't ground-breaking so I felt confident enough to give it a crack.

The basic idea was to cook some lentils with some dried cranberries, and to serve the little duck fillets on top. But I was worried about that being a bit dry and needed a sauce to bring it all together. Luckily we had some brandy left over from when the missus made mince pies and Christmas puds!

This cooks enough for two and is ready in about half an hour, including prep:

160g Puy Lentils
half a finely chopped carrot
a finely chopped large shallot or small onion
celery salt
cranberry sauce
duck fillets / duck breasts
a good slug of brandy
olive oil
2 tablespoons of dried cranberries, chopped
dried thyme
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper

Start with the lentils as everything else can be done whilst they're cooking. Soften the carrot and shallot in a mixture of butter and olive oil. We've started cooking a lot more with butter, what a difference it makes to the taste of food! Add the dried thyme and bay leaves. After they've had about 5-6 minutes add the dried cranberries and continue to soften for 3-4 minutes. Then add the lentils and follow the pack instructions for cooking them.

When your lentils are about 5 minutes away from being ready, get a frying pan hot and fry the mini duck fillets in butter and olive oil. Cook them over a high heat so they get a little bit crispy but stay moist in the middle. If you're using duck breast just slice it thinly and fry.

When the duck is cooked, remove from the pan and drain on kitchen towel. If your lentils are cooked take them off the heat, check for seasoning and put them to one side.

Now you can make the sauce. De-glaze the frying pan with a good slug of brandy. Before all the brandy evaporates add some water. Then add the cranberry sauce, about a dessert-spoonful. Stir to get a smooth sauce, add more water if you need to. You're not after a lot of sauce, just a fine jus that'll keep the duck and lentil dish from being too dry. Season to taste.

When the sauce is ready, serve. Put the duck on top of the lentils and spoon over the brandy and cranberry sauce.

This dish started as something I reckoned would be ok, and turned out to be quite delicious. Even worth blogging about! We'll be cooking it again.