Market ingredient: Duck from Pepe’s Ducks
Deliciousness: It was ok
Did The Beard like it? The jury is still out.
The purpose of this blog has always been to push me to cook things that I wouldn’t normally cook, whether it be an ingredient or a recipe. More often than not, I’m finding that the dishes on this blog are recipes that I’ve not cooked before, as opposed to ingredients. However this week was to the contrary. Duck is one of those meats that I’ve never cooked and wouldn’t have the foggiest what to do with. I might order it – maybe – at a restaurant, but I definitely don’t keep duck in the fridge to just whip out as a mid-week dish. However, whilst strolling around the markets this week, The Beard was rambling on about some dish that his boss, RR, had cooked using duck. Somewhat inspired by this (that’s right, RR, inspired), it seemed like the perfect week for this gamey bird.
Not really knowing what to do with it, I consulted my reliable brains trust of cookbooks. I always automatically think of French cooking when I think of duck, but there are some great Vietnamese and Chinese recipes out there that also make use of this gamey meat (Luke & Kylie, I promise I’ll try your dishes next). However, unbeknownst to me until a few months back, it’s actually quite common in Middle Eastern cooking as well. The Beard and I had attended a masterclass by the legendary Greg Malouf (who I often reference in this blog). He had created the most delicious duck pie that night (a duck bisteeya, a dish that he is still serving up in his new stint at Petersham Nurseries Cafe), so his recipes seemed worthwhile turning to for this dish.
The caveat on the below is that I’ve made a number of substitutions in this recipe. Mainly because of what I actually had in the cupboard at the time. Greg’s recipe includes baby root vegetables (leeks, turnips, red and golden beetroots), dry sherry and orange-blossom water, for which I substituted carrots and potatoes, white wine and rose water.
Ingredients for cardamom & honey-glazed duck with root vegetables
- 4 medium beetroots, washed and trimmed
- 3 medium firm potatoes, chopped into small chunks
- 1 carrot, chopped into small chunkes
- 2 medium leeks, washed and green leaves cut off
- 2 x duck breasts
- sea salt and fresh ground peper
- 60mL olive oil
- 300mL chicken stock
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1/2 tspn white wine
- 1 1/2 tbsp water
- 1/4 tspn cardamom seeds, crushed
- 1/4 tspn black peppercorns, crushed
- 1/2 rose water
- Cook beetroot in pot of simmering salted water until tender. When cool enough to handle, peel them and cut into small wedges and set aside. Blanch the leeks in boiling water for 2-3 minutes then refresh in cold water. Drain the leeks then dry them.
- Par boil the potatoes and carrots in boiling water for a couple of minutes until tender but still firm.
- To make the glaze, warm the honey gently with the wine and water to dissolve. Stir in the cardamom seeds and pepper. As the glaze cools, add in the rosewater.
- Preheat the oven to 200C. Use a sharp knife and score the skin of the duck breasts in a neat criss-cross pattern and season lightly. Heat the oil in a heavy-based roasting pan over a medium-high heat until hot. Add the duck breasts to the pan, skin side down, then lower the heat and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the skin turns golden brown and the fat starts to render. Turn the breasts over and cook for a further 3 minutes. Remove the duck breasts from the pan and tip away the rendered fat.
- Add the potatoes and carrots to the pan, along with the leeks, chicken stock, cardamom and oregano. Stir gently, then sit the duck breasts on top of the vegetables and brush the skin generously with the glaze. Cook in the oven for about 6-8 minutes then transfer the duck breasts to a warm plate.
- Return the pan to the stove top over a high heat and simmer untl the stock has reduced by half. Add the butter, swirling the pan until it mixes with the sauce. Add the reserved beetroot and heat through gently – do not stir as the beetroot will really discolour the sauce.
- Slice the duck breasts and pop them back in the oven for 1 minute. Arrange the vegetables on to the pate and top with the duck slices.
This dish promised a lot. Gamey duck breast, crispy skin, beautiful rich root vegetables. I love cardamom and beetroot, so it seems perfect for a winter’s evening. However it didn’t really come out like the picture in the book. The skin wasn’t particularly crispy and I didn’t get the spicy punch in the duck that I was expecting. Cardamom is such a pungent flavour – I could taste it in the vegetables, but not so much in the duck. I’m putting this down to the fact that I didn’t reduce the glaze enough. It was still really runny when I brushed the duck, so most of the flavour just ran off into the vegetables. I’d like to blame Greg for not telling me that I needed to reduce the glaze, but I probably only have myself to blame.
I really struggled with keeping the vegetables from being stained by the beetroot when I added them to the pan. I have no idea how Greg manages to keep the vegetables from staining pink. Mine ended up with pink blotches of sauce all over it, resulting in a pretty messy-looking dish. In saying all of this, the duck was actually really well cooked. Still pink and juicy, I was really happy with how that turned out. But I would definitely want to have another crack at this to see if I could get the glaze flavour back in the duck itself.