Buoyed by my success with the Coq Au Vin, I decided to give cooking with copious amounts of red wine another go with a something a little different. I’ve been wanting to make a ragu for some time, but upon searching through recipes online, I was disheartened to see that most required a slow or pressure cooker. However I then spotted this Duck ragu recipe by Valli Little and decided that this recipe would be perfect for expanding my repertoire. I also have never cooked polenta before and I was intrigued as to how to make this carb.
Overall, it was quite a simple recipe and you can also make it ahead of time by throwing everything into the pot and placing it on the heat 45 minutes or so before serving. It’s deliciously warm, soothing and rich comfort food made with very little fuss. I was delighted with how well this recipe turned out, most importantly – the polenta! I never realised how easy polenta would be to make. Just be careful because it does make a large amount and it sets very quickly once it cools.
To serve four, you will need:
- 20g unsalted butter;
- 2 tablespoons olive oil;
- 2 duck breasts (trimmed of excess fat, thinly sliced into strips);
- 6 slices pancetta, chopped;
- 1 onion, finely chopped;
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped;
- 1 carrot, finely chopped;
- 2 bay leaves;
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste;
- 1 cup (250ml) red wine;
- 600ml good-quality passata;
- 1 cup (250ml) chicken stock);
- parmesan, to serve.
For the polenta:
- 3 cups (750ml) cold water;
- 1 cup (170g) instant polenta;
- 1/2 cup (125ml) pure (thin) cream;
- 1/4 cup (20g) finely grated parmesan;
- 40g butter;
- finely ground white pepper.
How beautiful is that marbling on the pancetta??
Heat the butter and oil in a frypan over medium-high heat. Cook the sliced duck in batches, until browned on both sides (no need to render off all of the fat). Remove and drain the duck before placing in a bowl on the side.
Drain all but one tablespoon of oil from the pan and heat over medium heat. Add the pancetta, onion, garlic, carrot and bay leaves to the pan and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until they start to colour.
Return the duck to the pan with any resting juices, then add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for one minute. Add the red wine and cook for 2-3 minutes until the liquid has reduced slightly.
Add the tomato passata and chicken stock, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low. Cover and gently simmer for 45 minutes or until the duck is tender and the sauce has thickened slightly.
While you’re waiting for it to finish simmering, make your polenta.
Bring the water to the boil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Use a wire balloon whisk to stir the water. Gradually add the polenta in a thin steady stream, whisking constantly until all the polenta is incorporated into the water. Don’t add the polenta too quickly or it will turn lumpy.
Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 10 minutes or so until the mixture thickens and the polenta is soft. Test it by spooning a little bit onto a small plate and setting aside to cool slightly. Rub a little of the polenta mixture between 2 fingers to see if the grains have softened. If the grains are still firm, continue to cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until the polenta is soft.
Remove from heat. Add the cream, parmesan and butter, and stir until well combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with the ragu and top with shaved parmesan.
Om nom nom nom nom!