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September, 2006:

Well, you could call them baked beans.

.. or a rather grown up version at least! It all started with a trip over to visit my neighbour.. they were processing their annual ‘duck harvest’. A dozen birds returned from slaughter and a great deal of processing activity going on… the majority of which was being turned into confit. Much ooh-ing and ahh-ing from me as I thought the whole process was fascinating.. it’s rather different from the way I make confit but the process was essentially the same.

As is tradition on these occasions I left clutching a fistfull of duck products – a giant deep purple magret and a bag full of meaty carcasses.

It would be my normal reaction when faced with a duck carcass to roast off the bones and make a small amount of stock for a thai style hot and sour soup.. the depth of flavour with duck stock is something else but this time I decided to have a go at something quite different.. baked beans!

Day one, the prep. Straight into a big stock pot with the duck carcasses to brown them off and in with a handfull of carrots and coarsely chopped onions. A couple of hours low simmering and we have an excellent base for our big bad baked beans.

The dried beans need an overnight soak during which time a kilo will swell up considerably.. enough to fill a 4 litre pan.

Day two, the action. Finely chopped onion and carrots into a big ten litre pot (I prefer a pressure cooker and have an excellent new french Autocuisseur for this kind of job.) Softly sautee the veg in some duck fat until it’s quite soft and the onions are translucent. Add the soaked beans that have been rinsed, a bouquet garni of parsely, thyme and rosemary, the strained duck stock and kilo of peeled chopped plum tomatoes, half a dozen fat cloves of garlic and enough water to submerge the lot by a few cm or so. I add a little seasoning at this point too. Cook up for 35 mins in the pressure cooker (it’ll take two hours or so otherwise) and then finish the sauce with a little blonde roux, again made with duckfat.

And that’s it, extract the bouquet garni, jar up and sterilise. Job done.

It’s as cheap as chips (1Kg of dried beans costs €0.85). I grew everything else in the garden and the stock came for free. So, it’s rich, has huge depth of flavour courtesy of the duck stock, has a glassy smooth sauce courtesy of the roux and a remarkable herby edge with subtle background garlic flavour. It’s the perfect accompaniment to some toulouse sausages or a grilled leg of duck confit and just the job for a chilly winters evening. I know it’s still late in the summer but I’m looking forward to a plateful of this by a roaring fire sometime soon.

Charcuterie, Episode IV A longing for Boerewors

You can take the man out of Africa… but you can’t take Africa out of the man!

We’ve done a fair amount of globe trotting in our time and settling down in France to all the panoply of culinary delights on offer has been a revelation… there’s plenty of superb food on offer but the French just can’t make a good banger!

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