Braised duck and baked squash: Ed Smith’s winter dishes | Food

A trio of recipes to suit November’s produce – and mood. Each dish could sit next to a variety of sides and centrepieces, but they work particularly well together.

Madeira and quince braised duck legs

Prep 20 min
Cook 2 hr
Serves 4

4 duck legs, about 220-250g each
Salt and black pepper, plus flaky salt to finish
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 large
shallots, cut in half lengthways
400-500g quince
1 garlic bulb, cut in half horizontally
2 star anise
1 finger-sized piece cassia bark
, or ½ cinnamon stick
200ml semi-dry madeira, or oloroso sherry

You will need greaseproof paper and a roasting tray or ovenproof dish that fits the duck legs and quince pieces in one snug layer.

Heat the oven to 170C (150C fan)/325F/gas 3. Pat dry the duck, season generously with salt and leave for at least 10 minutes.

Measure the oil into a large, heavy-based frying pan and set over a high heat. Add the duck legs skin side down and brown for seven to eight minutes, without touching them. They should be turning golden after this time. Rotate to colour the edges, then add the shallots – cut side down – to the pan, in any spaces you can find. Leave the meat and shallots to colour for four minutes more.

Meanwhile, peel and quarter the quince. Cut away the hard cores, then (if the quince are large Turkish ones, rather than a smaller British, French or Greek variety) cut the quarters in half again (so the wedges are 3-4cm wide). Scatter the quince in the base of a baking tray. Add the halved garlic, anise and cassia bark, then arrange the quince, duck legs and shallots so everything fits more or less in one higgledy layer. Pour in the madeira and 500ml just-boiled water – the liquid should reach about halfway up the duck legs.

Cut a piece of greaseproof paper the size of the roasting tray, crumple it, wet under a tap, uncrumple, then lay it over the contents of the tin, tucking in the edges, as if putting the duck and co to bed. Roast for 90 minutes, remove the paper, baste the contents of the tray and turn up the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. Cook for 20-30 minutes more, to reduce the braising liquor and to crisp up the duck.

Whole baked winter squash with brown butter sage

Prep 10 min
Cook 1 hr 50 min
Rest 15 min
Serves 4-6

1-1.5kg onion squash (AKA red kuri; the same timings also work with similarly-sized acorn and butternut squashes)
Flaky salt and black pepper
30g salted butter
12-15 sage leaves

Heat the oven to 170C (150C fan)/gas 3. Wash the squash, put it on an oven tray and bake for 90-110 minutes, until wrinkled, blistering and sinking in on itself. (If you’re roasting it at the same time as the duck, it’ll be fine to leave the squash in the oven once the heat is raised, but keep an eye on it.)

Carefully transfer the squash to a platter, leave to cool and rest for 15 minutes, then cut it in half and scoop out and discard the seeds and woody stem. The flesh will be similar to a puree and the skin intact (and flavourful); use a spoon to cut the squash into chunks, and season generously.

Put a small saucepan or frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the butter and watch it melt and foam. When the centre of the foaming butter calms and a nutty smell begins to develop, scatter the sage leaves into the pan (ie, not in one clump). Leave to colour and crisp for 45 seconds, prodding and turning with a spoon as necessary, then turn off before the sage burns and turns bitter. Immediately spoon the leaves and flavoured butter over the squash, and serve.

Pickled chicory

Prep 15 min
Salt 90 min
Rest 2 hr +
Serves 4-6

350g red chicory (ie, 3-4 heads)
2 tsp flaky salt
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
200ml red-wine vinegar
100ml water
2 tbsp golden caster sugar

You will need a sealable, one-litre container. Separate the chicory leaves from their core, and thinly slice any core that remains afterwards. Transfer to a large bowl, sprinkle with the salt, mix well and leave for 60-90 minutes. Rinse the salt away, then pat dry the leaves with kitchen towel.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, lightly toast the fennel and coriander seeds for one to two minutes to awaken their essential oils, then take the pan off the heat. Measure the vinegar, water and sugar into the pan, bring to a boil, stir to dissolve the sugar, then turn off the heat and leave to infuse and cool completely.

Pack the chicory into a non-reactive one-litre container with a lid. Pour the cold pickling liquor over the top, compress to ensure the chicory is virtually (if not completely) submerged and seal.

You can now leave this in a fridge for up to seven days, during which time the chicory will take on the flavour of the aromatics and the vinegar will mellow. However, for the impatient/time-poor, it’s still tasty after just two to three hours.

Once served, re-use the pickling liquor in dressings or to pickle something else.

• Recipes by Ed Smith, author of On the Side, The Borough Market Cookbook and His next cookbook, Crave, will be published in May 2021; @rocketandsquash

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