Tom Kitchin: Moules Marinières | Duck confit

Tom Kitchin. Picture: TSPL

Tom Kitchin. Picture: TSPL

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TOM Kitchin cooks up two delicious French dishes - cuisine, he says, that can really sharpen up a budding chef’s skills in the kitchen

WHEN I started out as a chef, I was trained in classic French cooking techniques. Being taught by some great French masters like the legendary Michelin star chefs Pierre Koffmann and Alain Ducasse meant I really learnt the basics and built a genuine appreciation for ingredients and how to make the most of them.

Today, I always encourage my young chefs to learn as much as they can about classic French cooking techniques. Recently, one of our young chefs from The Scran & Scallie got involved in the Budding Chefs exchange programme. It’s a great initiative, set up to develop the culinary connections between young French and Scottish chefs – and to showcase the best of both national larders.

Along with five other young chefs from top Scottish restaurants, they set out on a gastronomic journey around France and learnt a great deal about the Breton larder and French cooking techniques.

Trying some classic French recipes can be a really great way to hone your cooking skills at home. They are more challenging, but once you master them they can be applied to lots of dishes. The French have given us so many inspired recipes, from coq au vin, moules marinières, fruit de mer, boeuf bourguignon and confit duck to soufflés, brûlées and tartes. The list is endless.

Moules marinières is such a wonderful French dish, and because mussels are really affordable and plentiful, it’s a perfect Sunday lunch or Saturday starter if you’re entertaining friends. This is a world renowned dish which combines fresh mussels in their shells with wine, onions and cream. Many chefs have their own twist but I like to serve mine with plenty of garlic and parsley, as well as a hint of thyme and bay leaves to give the dish a really fresh, aromatic flavour which stands up to the distinctive taste of the meaty mussels. The deep purple shells piled in a big dish in the centre of the table, accompanied by warm, fresh, crusty French bread to soak up all of the wonderful juices, and a crisp glass of white wine, make a perfect light meal.

If mussels are your starter, then a delicious duck confit can be a wonderful main. Confit means the meat is cooked extremely slowly in its own fat so you get a rich flavour. It takes a while to prepare and you’re best to start the day before, so it’s definitely one for the weekend or holiday half term. But it’s well worth the wait when you try that first reassuring mouthful. The flavour always takes me back to a cosy French bar or café.

Twitter: @TomKitchin

To find out more about Budding Chefs, visit http://buddingchefs.net/about

Moules Marinières

Serves four

2 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

1 tbsp olive oil

1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped

1 bay leaf

1 sprig of thyme

1.2kg mussels, washed and 
de-bearded

300ml white wine

1 handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

salt and pepper

lemon wedge

Method

In a deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan, sauté the shallots in olive oil until soft and translucent. Season to taste. Add the garlic, bay leaf and thyme. Over high heat, add the mussels and toss to coat. Pour in the wine and cover with a lid. Cook for 5-7 minutes until the mussels begin to open – discard any that do not open. Remove from the heat and mix in the freshly chopped parsley. To serve, place the mussels in deep bowls, garnish with a wedge of lemon and serve with some crusty bread on the side to mop up the juices.

Duck Confit, with Puy Lentils and Thai Dressing and Salad Garnish

Serves four

4 large duck legs

1l duck fat

For the salt rub

15g rock salt per kg duck

4 sprigs of thyme

1 star anise

2 cloves

zest from 1 orange

5 pink peppercorns

5 black peppercorns

1 cinnamon stick

For the Thai dressing

250g palm sugar

75ml fish sauce

9 limes – juiced

small bunch coriander – finely chopped

2 garlic cloves – finely chopped

50g fresh ginger – finely chopped

50g fresh red chilli – finely chopped

For the puy lentils

2 tbsp olive oil

2 shallots – finely chopped

50g fresh red chilli – finely 
chopped

50g fresh garlic – finely chopped

50g fresh ginger – finely chopped

1l chicken stock – extra may be needed

300g puy lentils

50ml sesame oil

50ml soy sauce

bouquet garni – parsley stalk, thyme & bay leaf wrapped/tied with leek leaves to make a parcel

For the salad garnish

4 sliced spring onions

1 sliced cucumber

4 sliced radishes

segments of orange

coriander leaves

sesame oil

Method

Blend together the ingredients for the salt rub to create a spiced mixture. Sprinkle liberally over the duck legs to coat and leave covered in the fridge. After 24 hours, remove the duck legs from the fridge, and wipe off excess salt with a clean, damp cloth. Warm up the duck fat to about 100C in a pot and carefully place legs in the warm fat. Cover the surface with greaseproof paper and place a lid on the pot. Put in a warm oven and cook gently for 2-3 hours until meat is completely tender – the fat should be gently simmering, not boiling.

For the Thai dressing, melt the 
palm sugar gently. Add the fish sauce and half the lime juice. Gently simmer, reducing to about three-quarters of the original volume. Leave to cool. Add the remaining lime juice to taste, creating a balance of sweet, sour and salt. Just before serving, mix in the chopped herbs.

For the lentils, sweat the shallots, chilli, garlic and ginger in oil on a gentle heat for 4 to 5 minutes until the shallots are translucent. Lightly wash/rinse the lentils, drain, then add to the pan. Add chicken stock to cover the lentils. Add bouquet garni. Simmer until the lentils are just tender, topping up the liquid if necessary. Drain any excess liquid, leaving the lentils in a little stock to keep moist. Season with soy sauce and sesame oil to taste.

To serve

Divide the lentils between warmed plates and arrange the confit duck leg on top. Drizzle the Thai dressing over each plate and top with the salad garnish.

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