French inspired dinner for two - Duck Legs Provencal with Wild Rice, Puy Lentils, Haricot Verts Almondine and Salad Provencal


My husband is away visiting family in Dubai and I have regressed to my old ways of bread and cheese for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Heating up the occasional ready-made soup or mixing a salad with grilled halloumi has been the most advanced and actually the only cooking I've done in the last two weeks. Oh, I did make a pot of hummus one inspired hungry moment. 

To break free from my kitchen laziness and because I really miss cooking, but just can’t be bothered to cook for myself, I invited my neighbour for dinner last night and another friend for lunch today. Just planning the menus is always such fun, trying to come up with a nice theme and a mixture of tastes and textures.

For last night’s menu I chose a French theme. For starters I made an olive tapenade and a slightly risky anchoiade, which I served with French bread toasted and brushed with oil and garlic.

For the main course I made duck legs and served them with a lentil and wild rice dish, haricot verts and a provencal salad.

Dessert is always my week point and because my neighbour is dieting it was an excuse to just offer some chocolates (great with any diet) and fresh strawberries.

The duck turned out beautifully, fall of the bone tender with crispy skin. The rice and lentils dish had a perfect bite to it. I have to admit I cooked the first set of lentils too long and had to chuck away the whole miserable mushy catastrophe. I always prefer Puy lentils, because they are not so over-sensitive, but I didn't have any so had to go with the much too temperamental green lentils. One moment they are just fine and the next falling to pieces, a bit like some people I used to work with.

Never mind. I binned the first batch and started again and watching them like a hawk I caught them at the right moment when they are cooked but still firm. I mixed the lentils with the rice and had to add quite a lot of seasoning before I was happy with the taste, but in the end they were a perfect side to the duck.

Haricots verts turned out lovely - lemony and buttery. And the provencal salad with the vinaigrette marinated onions and mushrooms was a beautiful accompaniment to a very tasty meal.

And kudos to the neighbour, she was up to the Anchoiade challenge. We had a lovely meal and finished the evening with a bottle of bubbly and a rerun of the latest Downton Abbey Christmas special. Golly what fun.

Duck legs a la Provencal or perhaps Dordogne

I found this recipe in YouTube a while ago and have done it many times. The lady in the video seems to use quite a lot of salt and cloves, maybe it's just my interpretation, but I try to be a bit more conservative and it always turns out perfect!

I also leave it in the fridge only for 5-8 hours with the salt. I don’t think you need the two days. Maybe it makes a difference, but I don’t have the patience and rarely plan my cooking so far ahead.

Duck legs
Sea salt
Ground cloves
Ground black pepper
Herbs de Provence mix

Cut extra fat off the legs, put on a tray and sprinkle sea salt over the legs. Cover and leave in fridge for a few hours or overnight.When ready to cook, heat oven to 190 C, cut the extra fat off the legs, rinse carefully and pat dry with kitchen towel. Place in an oven dish, sprinkle with cloves, freshly ground black pepper and herbs de provence dried herb mix. Bake uncovered for 2 hours. Discard the fat or save for roasting potatoes.

You can buy the Herb de Provence mix from any supermarket, but as it is a combination of things that I would always have in my cupboard, I do it myself usually following  this recipe. I skip the savoury and lavender and it works, but there are lots of great variations you can try.

Herbs de Provence spice mix

2 tablespoons dried rosemary
1 tablespoon fennel seed
2 tablespoons dried savory
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons dried marjoram
2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
2 tablespoons dried Italian parsley
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon bay powder

Green (or Puy) lentils and wild rice  

1 cup Green or Puy lentils (rinsed)
1 cup wild Red Camargue and wild rice (or any wild rice)
Onion or bunch of scallions or 1 leek
1-2 clives of garlic
1 red bell pepper
Chicken stock cube
Salt and pepper
½ cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a deep pan or casserole. Sauté the chopped onions with a sprinkling of salt for a couple of minutes. Add minced garlic and sauté for another few minutes. Add the lentils and chopped bell pepper. After another 3-4 minutes add water so that the lentils are covered and the waterline is about and inch above the lentils. Cook until lentils are done but still al dente – about 30 min. If you are using green lentils be careful not to cook them for too long as they do get mushy, Puy lentils keep their texture better.

In the meanwhile cook wild rice in water with a teaspoon of salt accoding to the package instruction.
Drain water form the lentils and from the rice and combine. Mix in chopped parsley. Check seasoning.

Salad Provencal by The Gutsy Gourmet

This is a lovely salad – I added some yellow tomatoes but forgot about the capers and substituted tarragon vinegar for cider vinegar, still worked beautifully!

2 cups fresh spinach leaves
1 head butter lettuce
2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup medium red onion thinly sliced
1/2 cup pitted black olives (whole or sliced)
1 tbsp. capers (optional)

2/3 cup good olive oil
1/3 cup tarragon vinegar
1 to 2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp Dijon Style mustard
pinch of tarragon

Wash and pat lettuce and spinach. 
Tear in bit pieces. 
Add olives and capers.

Mix all ingredients, whisk until slightly thickened. 
Toss onion and mushrooms to vinaigrette and marinate in refrigerator 1 hour. 
Toss marinade and salad ingredients and refrigerate 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Kosher salt
1/4 cup almonds
1 1/2 pounds haricots verts (French string beans), root ends removed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, minced
Freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, toast the almonds over medium-high heat until golden brown and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the pan, finely chop and set aside.

Blanch the string beans in salted boiling water until crisp but tender, 2 to 3 minutes. The salt will impart flavour as well as help keep the string beans crisp. Immediately drain and run cold water over the beans or plunge into an ice bath to cool and stop the cooking process, then remove and completely dry.
Return the sauté pan to the burner over medium heat and melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the shallots, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until starting to brown, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes. Toss the drained beans with the shallots and add the lemon zest and juice. Cook to heat the beans completely through, 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat and season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Toss with the toasted chopped almonds and transfer to a serving dish.

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