Celeriac, Potato & Turnip Gratin

Celeriac & Potato Gratin

The dark days of winter call for food that is soothing as well as seasonal, so wherever you are in the world, I suggest you cosy up with this satisfying gratin when the weather takes a turn for the worst.

It is also a lovely thing to do when the days are short and gray; stay tranquil and stay in the kitchen, peeling and slicing and filling your home with delicious smells.

This is a simple homestyle French dish, very impressive and hugely delightful. When I’m in France, I like to make this to accompany a rotisserie chicken but it can also be a meal in itself or, if you like, add a hearty bottle of red, a cheese platter, crusty bread and a green salad for a feast. 

3 small turnips (about 375g), peeled, halved and very thinly sliced

½ a celeriac, peeled, halved and very thinly sliced

½ a swede, peeled, halved and very thinly sliced

650g waxy potatoes, peeled, halved and very thinly sliced

225ml double cream

100g crème fraiche or sour cream

250ml milk

125g Gruyère or similar, grated

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

A 30 x 20cm baking dish, very well buttered

Serves 4-6

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/375ºF.

Put all the prepared vegetable slices in a large bowl and toss gently to combine. Set aside.

Combine the cream, crème fraiche or sour cream and milk in a small saucepan and heat just to melt the crème fraiche or sour cream. Stir well and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange half of the vegetables slices in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with a little salt and one-third of the cheese. Pour over one-third of the cream mixture. Top with the rest of the vegetables slices, the remaining cheese and a sprinkle of salt. 

Pour over the remaining cream mixture and cover the dish with foil or dampened baking parchment. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes. Remove the cover and return to the oven and cook until tender and well browned on top, 30-40 minutes more. Serve piping hot.

Photo: Martin Brigdale © Ryland Peters & Small

How to Cook Magret de Canard

how to cook duck magret

A simple recipe for pan-seared duck breast.

This is the basic cooking method for a boneless duck breast. You will need a cast iron skillet for top of the stove, then a baking paper lined tray for the roasting part.

How much time you cook really depends on the size of your magret. Use your eyes and cook the fat side until it looks nice and golden but not burned; obviously a big piece of meat will need a bit more time than a small piece. 

The key is temperature control. You want the pan hot at the outset, then finish with a roast in the oven. You need to use a high heat to start, to achieve the golden skin, but after a minute or so it is time to turn in down a notch. Keep a close eye once it has seared and begins to render the fat. 

Serve just plain, with sautéed potatoes, garlicky or not. A green salad and a red Madiran wine will complete the meal nicely.

Serves 1-2

1 duck magret, 500-700g (you may need 1 or 2)

Salt, any kind you like but not too coarse

At least 30 minutes before cooking (but as much as 2 hours if you can), remove the duck from the fridge. Trim the fat around the edges and score the fat side in a criss-cross pattern. Sprinkle well on both sides with the salt, pat in and let stand; this is a sort of dry-brine which helps to season and tenderize.

Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F, line a small baking tray with parchment. 

When ready to cook, heat your pan. No oil or any fat, there’s enough on the duck!

When it is hot but not smoking, add the duck, fat-side down. Sear for 1 minute on the high heat, then lower a bit to continue cooking until golden, 3-7 minutes, (if it starts to burn, lower the heat). You may want to check using a pair of tongs; just lift and peek don’t move it around too much.

With tongs, turn and cook the lean side for 2-4 minutes, then transfer the meat to the baking tray and roast until meat is done to taste, 4-8 minutes longer. Remove, cover with foil and let rest on a cutting board, at least 10 minutes.

Slice thinly and serve.