Roast duck legs, radicchio risotto, sour cherry and orange sauce spells Christmas…..In Italy?

Roast Duck legs, radicchio risotto, sour cherry and orange sauce

A whole duck looks and tastes lovely roasted but when cooking for more than 4 people roasting duck legs is simpler and always a hit. They are so easy you just about throw them in the oven and turn it on, then about an hour later you have golden brown, crisply cooked, salty skinned, melt in the mouth duck legs. This christmas we have about 14 for lunch not including the under sixers so roasting a big tray of duck legs, stirring up a risotto and adding a quick sauce on the side is the answer to feeding the family. This recipe is festive (in a Northern Italian sort of way) and has obvious classic pairings of duck with orange /duck with cherries but the roasted duck legs can go with just about anything. I included the same simple roast duck legs with a date and pomegranate sauce as part of a middle eastern themed lunch I made for my friends which Sarah has posted on her beautiful blog for the love of food. So on with the recipe:

For the duck

4 duck legs (for 1 each, more if you like)

Sea salt flakes and black pepper

1-2 onions, sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Season the meat side of the duck with salt and pepper and lay on a bed of the onion and garlic in a roasting dish. Sprinkle the skin with sea salt.


Roast in a really hot oven for 15 minutes then turn the heat down to 180 and roast for an hour. If they have not reached that mouth-watering golden colour with lovely crisp skin, turn up the heat for a bit and roast until they look like this:



For the risotto

2 tblsp olive oil

2 rashers smoked bacon, chopped

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 radicchio, sliced

salt and pepper

3/4 cup carnaroli

1/2 cup red wine

400 ml chicken stock

knob of butter

Heat the oil and have the stock warm and at the ready. Fry the bacon and shallots gently for a few minutes. Turn up the heat and add the radicchio, stir into the bacon and shallot then cover with a lid and turn the heat down as low as it will go. After 8-10 minutes when it looks like this, season well, radicchio loves salt and pepper:


Turn the heat up, add the rice and stir 5 minutes. Add the wine, let it bubble up for a bit then add some stock. Keep adding stock until it has been absorbed then add warm water until the risotto is nearly done. When the rice is still just under done and the risotto seems too runny still, put the knob of butter on the top, cover with a lid and leave it for 10-12 minutes off the heat.


For the sauce

80g dried sour cherries, pitted

2 oranges, juiced (I use blood oranges when in season)

3/4 cup red wine

100 ml chicken stock

1 tblsp brown sugar

Soak the cherries in the orange juice for 5 minutes while you put a saucepan onto a high heat. When the pan is hot add the red wine and let it reduce for  a minute. Add the stock, sugar, cherries and orange juice and reduce for 5 minutes until slightly syrupy. By now the risotto is ready and the duck is cooked, no need to rest, serve while the skin is crisp on a large spoon of risotto with the cherries and sauce around the side.

note: the onions in the roasting pan can be added to the dish or left to be nibbled at by passers by for the rest of the afternoon or evening (they are so very tasty).



9 thoughts on “Roast duck legs, radicchio risotto, sour cherry and orange sauce spells Christmas…..In Italy?

  1. Now I wish I was hosting Xmas lunch with a menu this delicious and do-able. Lucy, you’re such a cool host, providing out of this world food to lots of people with unflappable aplomb (and a dodgy oven).

    • Thank you again Sarah for taking an interest and writing lovely comments. We will be at my parents for Christmas so lots of space and a fancy new oven. Also there are a few people on salad duty, seafood duty, cheese plate duty etc.

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  3. That is a really lovely idea for an easy Christmas meal to feed lots of people. hmm…might have to incorporate this into Christmas eve plans.

  4. I know the recipe is great Lucy as I was a guinea pig for it. Just one thing though, I’d prefer that you didn’t ‘throw’ the duck legs into my oven, I have got plenty of roasting dishes.

  5. So I’m a year behind!

    This sounds great, BUT living in NZ radicchio is a real challenge unless we’re prepared to PAY! So not fair! Why didn’t the Italians come here?

  6. The onions burned and annealed to the pan, creating an enormous clean-up problem. To how high a temperature did you set the “really hot oven”? Did you grease the pan first?

    I assume the secondary temperature was 180° Centigrade, not Fahrenheit. With or without convection heat/fan?

    Nonetheless, the combination of fatty duck and bitter radicchio is inspired!

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