Perfect pairing: Potato, cucumber and celery salad with confit duck leg. Photo: Marcel Aucar
What do the words “potato salad” mean to you? They make me think of a big bowl of firm, white cubes slathered in mayonnaise served at a barbecue. I don’t know why this is, because the version I make is so much tastier and better looking.
In a great salad, the potatoes are creamy-fleshed and earthy, cooked by someone who is brave with the sea salt. They should be well past al dente, even a little crumbly, and dressed imaginatively while they are still warm, when they absorb the dressing better. I don’t care if the potato peeler is involved or not, I like the silky texture of a young, skinned spud but also the more rustic, skin-on version. For this recipe, I have used kipflers, an excellent waxy potato. For a skin-on potato salad, try royal blue or nicola potatoes, delicious waxy varieties with skins that taste great.
The dressing is just as important as using the right potato. This mustard dressing is one of my favourites, so easy, and egg-free for those with allergies. Try it on anything you would use mustard for, such as smoked trout, grilled rib eye or juicy pork snags. It is lovely on this fresh potato salad with crunchy vegetables, which makes a perfect side dish for rich confit duck.
2 celery sticks, cut into thick slices
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 lemons, juiced
250ml olive oil (a mild version, not too strongly flavoured)
500g kipfler potatoes, scrubbed
½ continental cucumber, peeled, seeds removed, cut into 2cm pieces
2 tbsp chives, chopped
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
Place a small pot of salted water on the stove and bring to the boil. Blanch the celery for 30 seconds then drain in a colander and cool at room temperature. To make the dressing, add the mustard and lemon juice to a food processor and blend, while slowly adding half a cup of boiling water. Then gradually add the oil until the dressing forms a semi-thick emulsion - add salt and more lemon juice if needed. Place potatoes in a pot covered with cold water and season well with salt. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender. Drain them in a colander until cool enough to handle, but don’t let them get cold as it makes them harder to peel. Peel the potatoes and slice into 2-centimetre-thick rounds, then place them in a bowl and keep warm. When ready to serve, place warm potato, celery, cucumber and herbs in a bowl and dress well, season and taste for salt if needed. Spoon onto a plate and place a crispy duck leg on top (see recipe below). For added kick, drizzle some mustard dressing over the duck.
Confit duck leg
6 cumin seeds
12 coriander seeds
3 juniper berries
50g flaky sea salt
6 duck leg and thigh joints
1 small bunch thyme
1 rosemary branch
1 unpeeled garlic clove, sliced, plus 1 whole garlic bulb, halved
500g duck fat, or enough vegetable oil to submerge the duck legs
2 bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
The day before cooking, toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry pan until they are aromatic. Put them on a chopping board and crush with the blade of a knife. Crush the juniper berries and mix with the spices and salt. Rub the mixture over the duck legs, scatter with thyme, rosemary and sliced garlic and chill for 24 hours, turning two or three times as they marinate.
Next day, heat the oven to 150C. Wipe the duck with kitchen paper and pat dry, but don’t wash off the marinade. Put the duck in a large casserole dish and cover with the duck fat. Add the bay leaves and peppercorns and cook for about 2½ hours, or until the meat is almost falling away from the bone.
Remove the confit duck legs from their fat. Heat an ovenproof fry pan on the stove on high. Add the duck legs, skin-side down, and cook for 4 minutes. Turn the legs and transfer the fry pan to the oven for 30 minutes, until the legs are crisp.
Duck legs can be kept for 2 weeks in a bowl in the fridge as long as you leave them covered by the confit fat.