IT'S January and not a bad month at all. Days are getting longer, the sun is peeking out in the afternoon, it’s nicely quiet and it’s a precious time to think ahead about holidays to come while cooking at home. Leave all these healthy nonsense January talks behind and get cooking some good, hearty food.

Early last year I began breathing new life back into a brilliant walled garden on the outskirts of Edinburgh: Newton Garden. After a year of hard labour, but a labour of love nonetheless, the garden is providing my L'Escargot restaurants with a fair amount of its vegetables. It has also been a fantastic experience for my staff, who have been able to join me in the garden and gain further understanding of nature and seasonality.

This month I have spent a lot of time in there, digging new patches, bringing in compost and new soil, and planning the sowing times for the year ahead. We have vegetables that have made it through the winter; lamb’s lettuce, leeks, Brussels sprouts and spring cabbage. In this recipe I am using my own swede and lettuces.

Winter is pie season. You can’t beat a slowly-cooked pie in the middle of the table. This one is tasty but also a great sharing dish that will lead to lots of discussion ahead.

Get yourself to your local food market, or to a local poultry farm, and ask them for fresh duck necks. I am a great fan of duck necks, they make great rillettes, are fantastic for stocks and, to my knowledge, are the best ingredients for pie. I am always after the little delicacies like that, which are usually left behind by the consumer.

For this great dish, I am serving precious lamb’s lettuce from my garden. It was put in the ground last October and has survived the winter. That's one of the things I love about Scotland. There will be plenty of other lettuce or salad varieties available in your local market, but try to avoid supermarkets if you have fresh, local produce available nearby.

Remember that cooking is about sharing and having fun testing, tasting, trying and mainly entertaining. Whether it is your kids and family or friends, do not hesitate to add ingredients or change this recipe as you wish.

Have a great time cooking and eating.

Duck neck pie served with lamb’s lettuce Serves 4/6


For cooking the neck

1kg fresh duck neck (special thanks to Gartmorn farm for supplying)

1 onion, sliced

1 carrot, sliced

1 garlic clove

Stock (veal, beef or duck)

I bouquet garni

For the mash and vegetables

1 large swede

1 large celeriac

1 large carrot

3 large potatoes

100g butter

2tbsp of crème fraiche

For the dressing

500g lamb’s lettuce or other leaves

1tbsp olive oil

2tbsp walnut oil

1tbsp red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper


1. Preheat an oven to 180°C. Peel and wash all vegetables.

2. Sear the skinned duck neck in a roasting tray. Add the onions and carrots and sauté, stirring often until all is golden colour.

3. When the neck is caramelised and light brown, add the stock and bouquet garni. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid or foil and place in the oven at 180°C. Cook for an hour, or until the meat is falling apart. Leave to cool down.

4. While your duck is cooking, peel the swede, carrot, celeriac and potatoes.

5. Once peeled, cut slices of about 2cm wide of celeriac, carrot and swede.

6. Cut the slices into 3 or 4 shapes of your choice for each vegetable, except the potatoes.

7. Cook the shaped vegetables in salted boiling water until soft, and place in ice-cold water to stop them cooking. Drain and reserve. By now you have carrot, swede and celeriac shape vegetables.

8. Cut the potatoes into big chunks. Put them in a large pot and cover with water. Add two pinches of sea salt, cover and bring to the boil, then simmer until all is cooked. Drain well and set aside.

9. When the duck is cool, shred the meat from the bones, keeping an eye out for very small bones; set the meat aside.

10. Pass the stock through a sieve and add to the meat.

11. Peel, slice and sweat a carrot and an onion for 10 minutes on a medium heat. When soft, add the meat, season well, add the stock and stir. Taste and season again if needed.

12. Butter a dish or a pot that you will use for cooking and serving the pie, and place the meat at the bottom.

13. Finish your mash by crushing the cooked vegetables, add 100g butter and a large spoon of crème fraiche, stir and taste. Season well and taste again.

14. Put the mash on top of your duck meat and level well using a spatula. Push your shaped vegetables into the mash, add a few cubes of butter and place in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 20 to 30 minutes.

15. Whisk your oils with the vinegar, add in the lettuce, stir it and serve with the piping hot pie when ready. Enjoy with friends.

Fred Berkmiller is chef patron of the AA rosette-awarded Edinburgh restaurants L’Escargot Bleu (56 Broughton Street) and L’Escargot Blanc (17 Queensferry Street)