Glazed roast duck

This is the best duck I have made to date. It came out beautifully brown, with five-spice, honey and other brown flavours with meat juicy and flavourful. A success, which I hope to repeat every time I want to roast a whole duck. It was the first time I decided to steam the duck simply because it reduced the overall cooking time to 1 hour 45minutes, which is better than the usual 2 1/2- 3 hours it usually took me to slow roast a duck.

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Here’s the recipe:

time to make 2½ hours, out of which 30 min is prep the night before

1 whole duck (4 to 5 pound)
1 tablespoon Chinese five spice powder
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
5 slices fresh ginger (I went a bit crazy there as one can never have enough ginger)
4 cloves garlic (ditto)
1/2 bunch green onions (didn’t use these, forgot)
1 tangerine, peel cut in big strips
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce

To reduce the fat and produce a crispy skin, begin by trimming the excess fat from the neck and body. Rinse the duck, inside and out, and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels. Combine the Chinese five-spice, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Rub the spice mixture all over the duck, inside and out. Salt and five-spice powder makes a fragrant dry marinade, which draws some of the moisture from the duck so that the spices penetrate. I left the duck rest overnight in a larder so it was a bit air-dried as well.

When ready to rock and roast, stuff the duck cavity with the aromatics: the ginger, garlic, green onions, and tangerine peel. Fold the wing tips back under the duck and tie the legs together with kitchen string. Poke the duck breast a few times, piercing the skin. Place a roasting pan on the stovetop over 2 burners and fill with 2-inches of water, turn the heat to medium. Set a V-rack insert inside the pan and lay the duck on the rack, breast-side up. Cover tightly with aluminium foil. Steam the duck for 45 minutes, checking the water level periodically. Seems obvious but when doing this, make sure you don’t get burnt by the escaping steam. Steaming the duck first melts away some of the fat and shrinks the skin.

In a small saucepan combine the vinegar, honey, and soy sauce over low heat. Bring to a boil and simmer and stir for 15 minutes until sauce thickens. The duck will be lacquered with the sweet glaze, which caramelizes during roasting, making the skin crisp and brown.

Preheat the oven to 190C. Take the foil off the duck, remove the rack with the duck and pour out the water and all the fat that has rendered out. Put the rack with the duck back inside the roasting pan. Baste the duck with the vinegar mixture, until all the skin is completely coated in the glaze. Stick the whole thing in the oven.

Roast the duck for 1 hour, basting periodically with any remaining glaze to set in a deep mahogany colour. Tent the breast with some foil if it gets too dark. I didn’t need to do this as the duck was rather large so it could take the heat. The legs will wiggle easily when it’s done or the usual test – when pierce clear juices will run – works too.

I left it stand for a few minutes while waiting for the sweet potatoes to finish roasting for a mash. Carve and serve.

The duck was served with sweet potato mash and brussel sprouts with garlic and parmesan. Oh and a decent, if not extravagant, bottle of French red.
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Photos courtesy of Alec Muffett. Many thanks!

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Spiced Butternut Squash Salad

This is a combination of three recipes, which was going to be either absolutely fabulous or a complete overload of flavours and ingredients. It turned out to the first option and so I am recording it for future reference.

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

800g butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
1 medium bunch of spring onions, trimmed and halved
a few splashes of olive oil
4 cloves of garlic with skin on
2 cm chunk of fresh ginger
2-3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed
100g rocket
cooking chorizo

Soy balsamic dressing:

3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tbsp soy sauce, I used dark one
1 fresh red chilli seeded and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp clear honey

Heath the over to 220C/fan 200C/gas 6. Place the squash, spring onions and garlic in a large roasting tin. Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with seeds and season. Roast for 30 minutes, shaking the tray a couple of times to keep it from sticking.

Whilst roasting slice the chorizo and dry fry until crispy. Set aside.

Pop the garlic cloves from the skins, mash and stir into the dressing. Whisk together the dressing ingredients.

Put the rocket in a salad serving bowl and arrange the squash on top. Pour the dressing over, sprinkle with the crispy chorizo and serve.

Spicy sweet potato & tamarind soup

This is the most wonderful and complex soup I have had for a while and I already have some soup recipes on this blog that are truly wonderful. The soup combines tamarind with sweet potato and many other good ingredients such as cumin, coconut milk, star anise – the result is a mix of flavour competing for attention in a marvellous way. It is a Gordon Ramsay recipe that I found on the Times Online site. This is what he says:

Tamarind is a sharp and sour paste extracted from the seed pods that grow on trees in southeast Asia and India. You’ll find it in most supermarkets. The sweetness from the potato complements the sharpness from the tamarind perfectly in this recipe. You can substitute the potato with butternut squash or really ripe plantain.

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6

50ml sesame oil
1 large red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
2 star anise
700g sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
400ml coconut milk
3 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp light soy sauce
600ml chicken or vegetable stock
Handful of basil and mint leaves, shredded

Heat the sesame oil in a large saucepan and gently sauté the onion for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, chilli (seeds as well) and dry spices and fry for a minute until the spices smell fragrant.

Add the potatoes and pour in the coconut milk. Stir in the tamarind and soy sauce, then add enough stock to cover the potatoes. Bring the soup to the boil, cover with a lid and cook for 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Pick out the star anise and discard.

Remove the pan from the heat and blend until smooth. Pass the soup through a sieve into a clean pan. Stir in more stock or water until you have the right consistency, then reheat. Season with more soy sauce or salt to taste and add the herbs just before serving.

I also added some jambon pieces recently cut off the bone. Perfect texture and salty flavour to complement the soup.