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There are several types of duck which are popular for eating but Gressingham is certainly my favourite. Gressingham are a cross breed of duck, half Mallard (known for its gamey taste) and half Peking. There is more flesh on the breast and the fat is more even, allowing us to render it down and the end product to be lovely and crispy.
I harp on about the fat to meat ratio a lot, it keeps the meat nice and juicy and prevents it from drying out while cooking, and it just tastes so good! Crispy duck skin and pork crackling are one of life’s reminders that you don’t need expensive ingredients to eat well.
Since the weather hasn’t quite turned wintery yet I’ve decided to do a warm salad dish with a bit of an Asian theme, which is perfect for the Peking heritage of the duck.
And so for the method…
Start with your duck breast slightly chilled, it’s easier to work with when it’s been in the fridge as the fat is firm and you can get a nice shape when you trim it. We place it fat side down on a board and take the small fillet off and discard, it over cooks and tastes a bit livery which isn’t what we want. Then the fat is pressed down around the breast and the excess trimmed away. We then turn the breast over and score with a very sharp knife (which is one of the staple things you need at home if cooking is your thing). Why score it? Simple. It allows the heat to penetrate the fat properly, otherwise it doesn’t render down correctly and can be a bit chewy which isn’t the result we want.
The duck is then placed into a vacuum pack bag and poached very gently for an hour to keep it nice and pink. If you don’t have access to water baths don’t worry, you can cook it in a pan and the oven: crisp the skin in the pan slowly on a moderate heat, not scorching hot, and then put it in the oven on 180 for 7/8 minutes and rest it for at least 5 minutes before carving.
While the duck is cooking you can focus on the garnishes.
We are using Granny Smith apples, cucumber, feta, parsnip and a few herbs from the garden including nasturtium – which seems to be a bit of a hipster herb these days but used sparingly is lovely and brings a radishy/mustardy heat. Apples are peeled and cucumbers de-seeded and you can cut them into whatever shape you like but we go for nice even squares. A light pickle is made with lime juice (following the Asian theme) and vanilla and the cucumbers and lime are compressed.
Now since this is Asian inspired and a light dish I didn’t really want to add heavy carbs so I’ve opted for a light sweet potato and shallot bhajji, to play to the Asian fusion style.
When plating food I advise to put components on the plate in the order you think they should be eaten, and use the amounts that you think you would like to eat. The duck is obviously the main star of this dish so make sure the rest of the garnishes work with it not against it – too much and you lose the main focus of the plate, too little and it’s pointless it being there.
I hope you enjoy your Asian style Gressingham duck, next week I think we will talk scones…
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