Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Duck with Asian flavouring

We had a house in south west France for a while, old old old thing made of stone and horse dung that looked out over miles and miles of sunflowers and fields of cattle known locally as Blonde Aquitaine. We went down for long weekends and the odd week here and fortnight there for a few years, doing up the house, adding showers and toilets and removing plaster to reveal solid stone walls and ancient beams. I learnt a lot in those few years - a smattering of  French, how to restore oak floors till they gleamed like glass and a myriad of ways to cook duck. We were in the Gers, the region that is famed for poultry, foie gras, garlic and Armagnac. I liked it a lot!

But until we stumbled upon Montreal du Gers I had never cooked duck, and indeed had barely eaten it beyond crispy duck with pancakes and hoi sin sauce at many and various Chinese restaurants. It is a lovely rich meat, particularly if you can crisp the skin, whilst maintaining a fairly rare interior. You don't need a lot but a small portion will bring you great cheer when it's perfectly rendered. We ate it all over the region, simply grilled with frites and salad, confited (of course!) again with frites and salad, slow cooked in casseroles with garlic, with wild mushroom sauces, flamed with Armagnac and once as a particularly fine carpaccio. My first couple of attempts to cook it myself were sadly inadequate till I bought Jeanne Strang's Goose Fat and Garlic and understood fully just how many mistakes I was making! I perfected the duck but have abandoned hope of making frites that fabulous...

We sold the house a little while ago and I began to hanker for duck dinners again, not so much the sauté but definitely that lovely rich meat and the divine crunch of skin. There really is nothing quite like crisp duck skin! I started buying an occasional duck breast (English) from Lizzie At Wild Beef at Borough, big and meaty though with a little less fat than their Gersois cousins. Good, though, especially with citrus and noodles and greens.

A few weeks ago Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall had some duck recipes in the Guardian and one in particular caught my eye. It involved marinating in a mix of juice, soy and ginger amongst other things then serving it up with hot chunks of pineapple. I love hot chunks of pineapple, they are the very essence of sweet sticky sunshine, seemed a perfect antidote to a cold bleak February Tuesday. How right I was....

Duck breasts with pineapple, chilli and soy 

A favourite quick duck recipe says Mr HF-W

Serves two.

½ large fresh pineapple
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp soft brown sugar (or honey)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
A golfball-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced
½-1 fresh red chilli (according to heat), deseeded and finely chopped
A few twists of black pepper
2 boneless duck breasts - or 1 large one
A little sunflower oil
2 spring onions, finely sliced

Peel the pineapple and cut off two 2cm-thick slices. 

Cut these into quarters and trim off the core. Roughly chop the rest of the pineapple and, with your hands, squeeze out the juice into a bowl.

Mix three or four tablespoons of the juice with the soy, sugar (or honey), garlic, ginger, chilli and black pepper. Make three or four slashes in the skin of each duck breast, cutting deep into the fat but not as far as the flesh. Put the breasts in the marinade and turn to coat. Marinate for a couple of hours, if possible, but even 10 minutes will do.

Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Grease a frying pan with sunflower oil and put it on a high heat. Wipe the marinade off the duck and sear quickly all over, being sure to sear the skin. 

Put the breasts skin side up in an ovenproof dish into which they'll fit snugly. Tuck the spring onions underneath and pour over the marinade. Roast for eight to 10 minutes, until the skin is browned and crisp – at this point, the meat should still be pink.

Remove the breasts and leave to rest on a warmed plate. 

In a small, lightly oiled pan, fry the reserved pineapple slices, dusting them with a little salt and turning occasionally, so they brown. Strain the meat juices into the pan and reduce to a syrupy sauce, tossing the pineapple pieces to coat them. Put the duck in the pan and turn a few times to coat.

Slice the duck and arrange on plates. Spoon the sauce and pineapple over and around the meat. Serve with rice and steamed greens.

I know it's been some time since I posted - apologies!

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