Preserved Meat

Confit de Canard (Duck Confit)

Duck ConfitLet me be clear from the start – French food freaks me out.

Alarmingly sophisticated, I have always been wary of making it at home and, on the face of it at least, with good reason. Widely regarded as the pinnacle of Western cuisine, French food seems to thrive on its reputation that it is impossibly complicated and perceived to be beyond those of us not blessed to be born French, or trained in the art of cordon bleu cooking! The truth is that neither of these “prerequisites” should be an impediment to whipping up your favourite French delight!

Generally speaking, much like many of the world’s other great cuisines, French food is all about making simple food exceptionally well. The devil is in the technique, but thankfully this can be mastered, or at the least, approximated. Armed with the weighty Larousse Gastronomique and some self-confidence, there is no reason why you can’t be tucking into your favourite bistro fare come dinner time.

Which brings me to this recipe. Perhaps the epitome of French cuisine, duck confit is simplicity made complicated, or at least so it seems. To make a confit is, in essence, an act of preservation – in this instance with duck. Whilst the preservation and cooking process is quite lengthy, it isn’t actually particularly complicated, but attention to detail is paramount. Every step of the recipe is essential, and I recommend one reads through the recipe a couple of times to familiarise yourself with the cooking process before starting. Duck Confit is not a recipe that should be rushed, so a certain amount of planning is required when making it. Effectively a dish that takes up to the better part of two days to prepare, don’t think to buy your duck in the morning and expect to be serving it come that evening!

One of the best things about duck confit is its near immortal shelf-life. Stored correctly in the refrigerator, duck confit can be kept for as long as 6 months, making it the ultimate pantry item – perfect for impromptu dinner parties or a special treat!

With all that said, duck confit’s meticulous preparation, prolonged curing time and languid cooking process shouldn’t deter you from making this dish! After you’ve made it once, you’ll realise that it is surprisingly straightforward and is not as complicated as it initially seems. After all, this is French cooking we are dealing with here and it wouldn’t be French if it didn’t at least sound intimidating!

Click here for the recipe

Gav’s Glorious Biltong

Other than a good braai, there are few things that unite South Africans quite as much their love of biltong!

BiltongSynonymous with sports, game-hunting, two-toned khaki shirts, the Voortrekkers and all things manly, biltong is arguably South Africa’s most cherished snack. Whether it be wet or dry, pimped with peri-peri or traditionally flavoured, biltong has been adapted to appeal to virtually all tastes…provided they’re of a purely carnivorous nature, of course!

And whilst biltong shops are virtually omnipresent throughout the country, there is nothing more satisfying than making your own! To many a South African man, the ability to make your own biltong and brew your own beer is, perhaps, the very definition of self-sufficiency. I must confess that I’d never really considered making my own until I sampled a family friend’s homemade biltong. And while his biltong was incredibly delicious, for me the real appeal lay in the scarcity of the basic ingredients needed for curing. Like so many things these days, even the most simple food comes with a terrifingly epic list of preservatives and chemicals and sadly biltong is no different. At its heart, biltong is the very definition of basic food preservation and its ingredients should be a reflection of this. To my mind, homemade ultimately to speak to the true spirit of biltong and once you’ve tasted the difference, there is no turning back.

After some badgering for Gav’s amazing recipe and a flurry of online shopping for a biltong maker, I suddenly found myself meandering along the path of South African self-sufficiency…I just need to establish the microbrewery in the laundry and I’ll be set for life!

Click here for the recipe