Of all the preserved protein dishes I know, a tender duck leg that has been brined for a day or two, then submerged and slowly cooked in its own fat, is easily one of my favorite tasting dishes. The sweet and spicy pineapple relish contrasts beautifully with the slightly salty duck, and the sautéed watercress is a great foil for both.
Step 1: Duck Confit
Trim any excess fat from the duck legs and place them in a bowl. Rub the legs with all of the remaining ingredients, cover with plastic wrap, and marinate in the fridge for a couple of days.
Pre-heat oven to 150 degrees.
Place the duck legs in an ovenproof dish so they fit snuggly. Heat up the duck fat until it becomes liquid. Pour over the duck legs, and then cover with tin foil. Place in the pre-heated oven. Check the confit legs after 2 hours, then at 15-minute intervals after that. The legs are ready when the duck comes away from the bone with ease.
Once cooked, remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate still submerged in the fat, until required.
Step 2: Pineapple Relish
In a large saucepan, combine all the ingredients but the pineapple. Bring to a simmer and reduce the liquid by half.
Place diced pineapple into a mixing bowl and pour the hot pickling liquid over it. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
Step 3: Cooking and Serving
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees.
Place a skillet or sauté pan on medium high heat. Once hot, place 3 duck legs skin side down in the pan. Leave for 2 to 3 minutes, until the skin is caramelised and golden. Remove from the pan and place in an ovenproof dish. Repeat with the remaining 3 legs, and then place the duck legs in the oven to heat through (about 6-7 minutes).
Once the duck is in the oven, reheat your skillet to a medium/high temperature. Add butter and garlic, and sauté quickly until lightly golden. Place watercress and chicken stock in the skillet and toss until the watercress wilts. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, place a generous portion of watercress in the centre of each warm plate, top with a duck leg and a spoonful of pineapple relish. Serve now and enjoy!
Photography by Kieran Scott