Duck and pinot noir – it's a tried-and-tested combination, but honestly, who the hell knows how to cook duck? We don't even know where to buy duck. That's why we enlisted our good mate Chef Dave, who also happens to run Morso Food and co-own the Eighteen Sixty wine bar. To summarise, he knows his stuff; but more importantly, he's promised that we mere mortals will be able to cook this duck ragu like the pros do. Or, at the very least, without poisoning our mates and/or dates.

Chef David Powell

What the? Duck?

'It's the classic pairing,' says Chef Dave. 'And it has been for what, hundreds of years? Something to do with the history of Burgundy, but in terms of taste, the acidity of the pinot will cut through the fat. Duck is such a fatty meat, especially when you're dealing with the legs, so any duck dish will be so mouth-coatingly...fat. You need something that's going to work with that.


I generally like pinot noir as a food wine anyway because it's kind of savoury, rather than being big and bold. I hate big, massive reds with food as they dominate the dish, so I'm definitely a massive fan of pinot, whether it's with duck or something else. This ragu also has some spices that aren't really associated with Italian food, which also makes pinot noir a great pairing choice. A lot of people will be thrown once they look at the recipe, but these spices found a home in Venice because of the trade merchants, and they'll mirror those classic spicy notes you often find in a pinot.'

But Chef Dave, where do we buy duck? 

'First of all, don't you dare buy it from a supermarket. There's one brand that's everywhere and their birds don't come from a nice place. They've had a bad life and a bad diet, which means they won't taste like the meat should. Your first port of call should be a butcher, particularly if they specialise in poultry. If you live in Melbourne, there are a couple at both the Prahran and South Melbourne markets. They're getting stuff in store that's a really high-quality product, but will be no more expensive than the supermarket version.'

'If you really, really want to splash out and go the extra mile – as a self-confessed wanker like me would – you should look for duck from the Great Ocean Road. I know Hagen's Organics sells them. These are arguably the best ducks you'll find in Australia and if you go to a nice restaurant and see duck on the menu, you can bet that it has probably come from the Great Ocean Road. I don't eat a lot of meat at home, but when I do, I make sure it's something good. Yes, you'll pay more for that one thing when you buy it, but my advice is to not eat meat six days a week.'

Any hot tips for first-time cookers?

'Just make sure you start with a cold pan. Always. You want to slowly render the fat, and if you don't do that, everything will go really chewy. Be careful not to overcook duck either; it'll go dry and it's nowhere near as forgiving as something like a lamb shoulder. Too little, too much, and the duck won't work. You've got some leeway, but not as much as other meats.'

And parting words of advice?

'You've got this.'


Homemade farfalle verde 

Chef Dave's Duck Ragu


  • 600g farfalle pasta
  • 4–6 duck legs (skin on)
  • 2 brown onions, roughly diced
  • 1 small garlic clove, roughly diced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons plain flour
  • A handful of chopped herbs (leaves only) eg. rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage or marjoram
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 peels of orange rind
  • 4 juniper berries, 1 whole nutmeg, and 4 whole cloves, securely tied in a ‘spice bag’ made from a piece of chux or cheesecloth
  • 250mL red wine, preferably something light and fruity
  • 800g San Marzano tomatoes, or other whole peeled tomatoes, crushed with your hands
  • 250mL chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 60mL whole milk
  1. Start with the right pan. Ideally, you'll want a really large cast iron enamel pot (Le Cruset, etc) but if not, a large stainless stockpot will do the job. 

  2. Put the duck legs into a COLD POT, skin-side down, in one layer. If they don't fit, you may have to do this in two batches.

  3. Turn the heat to medium and let the legs slowly cook. DO NOT be tempted to add the legs to a hot pan with oil, like you might with other meats.

  4. When the legs are beautifully coloured (light brown) on the skin side, turn them over and cook briefly on the meat side.

  5. Repeat with the rest of the legs, letting the pan cool down between batches, then keep the legs aside.

  6. Leaving the heat on medium (and all that wonderful duck fat in the pan), add the onions and garlic with a tablespoon of butter, and cook gently for 5 mins until softened.

  7. Add the cinnamon, flour, herbs, orange peel and spice bag and cook for a further minute or two. When everything starts to stick a little, deglaze with the red wine and reduce it by half (a few minutes).

  8. Return the duck legs to the pan, add the tomatoes, chicken stock, milk and sugar, along with some salt and pepper.

  9. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat, cover with a lid and cook for two hours, stirring every now and then. If the duck is not fully submerged, top up with some extra chicken stock or water.

  10. After two hours, remove the spice bag and orange peel, then carefully lift the duck legs out of the sauce and place on a plate. They’ll be super tender, so try not to lose any of the meat.

  11. Pull off and discard the fat, then remove the meat from the bones (discard the bones). If the remaining liquid is looking a little ‘thin’, put the pan over a rapid heat and boil the sauce so it thickens up to your liking. When you’re happy with the consistency, add the duck meat back to the sauce. 

  12. Cook the pasta then drain, reserving a cup of the pasta water, and add the pasta to the ragu.

  13. Stir to coat all the pasta in the sauce and cook for a minute more, adding a splash of pasta cooking water if it looks dry.

  14. Serve with grated Parmigiano Reggiano and an incredible pinot noir (that's where One Wine comes in).