Like a lot of self-appointed and self-important gourmands, when the annual festivities come speeding around the corner, my list for Father Christmas usually contains a whole host of things food-related. Cookbooks, kitchen gadgets and equipment are often the order of the day. Which is great. There is nothing better than getting all choked up after unwrapping a temperature probe and burger making kit. ‘Thank you Nan,’ I’ll whisper into her ear, whilst administering a hug. ‘Thank you for getting me this and not the usual socks and pants.’ That never quite fit.
I have come unstuck before though, after putting in some more prosaic requests that seemed sensible at the time. Too sensible really. I remember clearly, sitting in the living room one year and when all the frenzy died down, feeling quite empty after seeing fellow family members dance about, each of them with snazzy clothes, DVD’s, perfume and whatnot. We do secret Santa in our family you see, with a strict budget. The person buying my present chose to blow the whole lot on a huge, expensive stock pot; ignoring a lot of smaller bric-a-brac that I was after. So I was sat there afterwards, with it perched on lap, thinking ‘Bloody hell Mum, you could have got a cheap one in IKEA.’ Revealing that even at the age of 33, I could still be a most ungrateful and spoilt brat.
Nowadays, having more than enough kitchen junk and books than I can cope with, I think I would be happier to receive edible goods and the odd alcoholic treat this year. I am not thinking about the usual collection of beer flavoured pickles or plastic grinders filled with vivid red peppercorns here, as seen on supermarket shelves, next to shower gel sets and luminous singing rubber ducks. (Who really wants that sort of present anyway?) No, I’d like something that was delicious to eat, properly nourishing and possibly homemade; with love, care and attention. Something like a big jar of goose confit.
Confit, if you are not aware, is a simple process that involves cooking lightly-cured meat in melted fat, at a low temperature, for a long time. The meat and fat is then left to cool together so that everything solidifies, providing a protective barrier against bacteria, which results in a technique of preservation that has been around for centuries. Duck legs are usually associated with this peculiar practise of cooking and the curious thing for me, is that this method actually draws fat out whilst tenderising the meat. A piece of confit duck leg is actually healthier than say, plain roasted! Or at least that’s what I like to keep telling myself.
Seeing as it is Christmas though, why not up the ante and use goose legs instead, another popular, albeit slightly more expensive bird that suits confit. Buying up enough goose fat to cover the legs can have a knock on that budget but you can get just as good results by replacing half the amount needed with vegetable oil or plain lard. I also find that fitting the legs into a smaller snug space, like a medium-sized casserole, helps to cut down on the amount of fat needed. Adding few herbs here and there is another good idea, along with some cloves of garlic but make sure that you clean off the salt properly before cooking. The rich meat benefits from a decent period of curing but if you leave too much salt behind, the legs will have you reaching for pints and pints of water afterwards.
The biggest key though is making sure that you have a jar large enough to stick them in afterwards, for visual impact, if anything else. I know if I were to unwrap something like this on Christmas Day, I wouldn’t be that bothered if there was nothing else for me under the tree.
But you wouldn’t catch me sharing it. Oh no. You can just run off and play with your miniature Connect 4, VW Camper Van speakers or whatever else you got.
4 goose legs
100g of rock salt, lightly ground
800g of goose fat
5 sprigs of thyme
10 black peppercorns
8 garlic cloves
1 First, place the goose legs in a deep tray and liberally sprinkle with the rock salt to evenly coat. Cover with cling film and leave the tray in the fridge for 6 hours, coming back to turn them over halfway through.
2 Preheat the oven to 130°C/gas mark 1.
3 When ready to cook or confit, brush off all of the salt with some kitchen towel. Don’t rinse the legs in water.
4 Place your casserole dish on the hob and add the goose fat. Heat gently so that it melts completely then place your goose legs in the fat. Depending on the size of the legs, you may have to add more fat – if so, just top up with vegetable oil. Add the aromatics by sprinkling over the peppercorns and press the garlic and thyme into all the nooks and crannies. Bring up to a very light simmer.
6 Leave to cool to room temperature then lift the goose legs out. Place in a large, sterilised jar. Don’t worry, the legs will be quite pliable and should fit with some encouragement.
7 Ladle the remaining fat over, along with the cooked aromatics, making sure you completely submerge the legs. If this is a struggle, take a leg out and keep one for yourself.
8 Place in the fridge – overnight the fats will solidify completely.