Braised Duck Legs with an Orange Gremolata

Image of gremolata ingredients

I dearly love a bit of duck and I succumbed to its siren call when I was shopping. I bought legs, which are cheaper but tougher than the breasts (all that paddling). To make them really succulent they benefit from long, slow cooking, but at the same time it’s nice to have a crispy skin and I think this recipe hits the spot.

The legs are cooked with sweet root vegetables and finished with a gremolata, an Italian garnish of what’s usually finely chopped lemon zest, parsley and garlic, sprinkled on a dish as a finishing touch. It perks up slow-braised dishes no end.

I used the zest of a Seville orange as I wanted orange juice in the sauce, too, and I still have some Sevilles lurking in the freezer. But a sweet orange or in season, a blood orange, would work just as well. I also used a dry Marsala in the sauce as that’s what I had to hand but an Oloroso sherry would be equally good.

We ate the duck with a herby, citrusy couscous and bulgur wheat pilaf. It’s very good with a creamy potato purée and peas too.

Braised Duck Legs with an Orange Gremolata

Braised duck legs with orange gremolata, served


2 duck legs, trimmed of excess fat and seasoned with salt and pepper

2 large onions, peeled and diced

2-3 medium carrots, peeled and diced, about a double handful

1-2 parsnips, peeled and diced, about a double handful

2 sticks of celery, trimmed and diced

1/2 tspn ground coriander

1/2 cinnamon stick

The juice of 1 orange

1 wine glass of dry Marsala

About 350 ml chicken stock

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the gremolata:

The zest of 1 small orange

1/2 garlic clove, very finely chopped

1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

Image of chopped root vegetables


Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.

Prick the skin on the duck legs with a fork and season with salt and pepper. Take a pan large enough to hold all the ingredients. Put the duck, skin-side down, into the cold pan and place it on a medium-high heat. There’s no need to add any oil. Cook until the skin has browned, then turn the legs over and quickly sear the other side.

Remove the duck and pour off all but a tablespoon or two of fat (save any left over for roasting potatoes). Cook the vegetables in the fat in the pan until they’re browning nicely. Stir in the ground coriander and let it cook briefly.

Add the Marsala and let it sizzle up, scraping any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Put the duck legs back in, skin-side up and add the cinnamon stick, orange juice and enough chicken stock to come halfway up the duck.

Image of duck legs ready for the braise

Bring to a boil, place in the oven and cook uncovered for 30 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Check the liquid level and add more stock or water if it looks as though it’s drying out too much, but avoid pouring it onto the duck or the skin won’t stay crisp.

Cook for another 30-40 minutes or until the duck is tender to the point of a knife and the sauce has reduced. Check the seasoning in the vegetables/sauce and mix the gremolata ingredients together.

Serve the duck on a mound of couscous, if using, with the vegetable mixture spooned round. Finish by sprinkling the duck with a little of the gremolata.

Image of gremolata ready for mixing

23 thoughts on “Braised Duck Legs with an Orange Gremolata

  1. Oh, yummy, I like the idea of a Seville orange gremolata with duck! Sounds like a perfect match, not too sweet with a nice acidic kick. Now tell me about freezing Sevilles, whole or the zest? I have frozen zest and blood orange juice (which always stays a little moist on the surface) but never the whole fruits. Much better idea.
    N xx

    • Thanks Nicole. If I have any Sevilles left over after the marmalade making, I put them in a bag and freeze them whole. They keep really well, although they’re almost impossible to zest. I pared the skin of mine here very thinly (no pith) and chopped it finely for the gremolata, although obviously if you’re using a fresh orange you can zest it in the usual way. Lx

  2. I do like a duck leg – we had some last week, slow-cooked with plums and five spice. Other half has a ‘thing’ about oranges in savoury dishes, so this would not be allowed, booo. Looks delicious though and I imagine the citrus cuts nicely through the fattiness. I like the idea of you being lured by the duck – perhaps by a whistle that it has designed to sound like Mr P.?!

    • I’m not sure I’ve ever heard Mr P whistle, even when the ducks are showing a leg. 😉 Love the sound of yours with plums and five spice, sounds most seductive, wink wink.

  3. This really does sound delicious, Linda, and that gremolata the perfect accompaniment. Luckily, duck is becoming more available in these parts. I could always buy whole ducks but they prove too big for one dinner. Now, I can get legs and breasts, raw, roasted, or confit. It’s a great time to be alive — well, unless you’re a duck.
    I hope you and yours enjoy a wonderful Easter, Linda.

    • Poor ducks! Thanks for the kind words, John, and I hope you have a good Easter too. It’s sunny here and the garden is full of flowers and birdsong as I write, but hail storms and high winds are forecast – typical English Easter!

  4. There! We had our Easter Duck yesterday, and ‘Im Indoors says to thank you for a very delicious meal. I think that Seville orange is the making of this dish, and unlike you, zested it direct from the freezer with the aid of my trusty microplane.

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