Take your time. I won’t be Peking in on you.
Sigh. The trouble with having friends round for dinner when you’ve trained as a chef is that dinner can’t be a lazy cop out. Nothing wrong with a tray of roasted veg served with some delicious fish, but I expect more of myself! I view it as an opportunity to try out new recipes that I wouldn’t bother with otherwise – not because the cooking part is complicated, but the researching part takes a little bit more effort.
Peking crispy duck served in Chinese pancakes with sticky hoisin sauce was always my favourite, favourite Chinese dish, and a recent walk through London’s Chinatown sent my nostalgic craving into overdrive. Asian cooking involves a lot of soy sauce, sometimes made with wheat. For a long time I wondered if I could have a go at making a hoisin sauce myself, but did nothing more than simply wonder. Now that curiosity resulted in hours on Pinterest and checking supermarket labels to work out the perfect recipe. In the process I discovered that there are other ingredients in commercial hoisin I wouldn’t usually eat – black beans (my gut does not like beans), white sugar, and often additives (E numbers) and artificial unpronounceables.
I finally found a recipe that looked simple and I that could easily adapt with some clever substitutions.
I was quite astonished how similar to the real thing the hoisin tasted. I debated recreating the Chinese pancakes with gluten free flour, but in the end decided that green lettuce wraps were preferable to a starchy pancake mess. I’ll save my calories for dessert (apple pies!), thank you very much.
Instead of a whole duck, I took the easy option of Gressingham Duck* legs and an impressive, low-effort dinner was born. I used star anise in this recipe, a new ingredient for me. I love that there are so many ingredients at our disposal – I will always keep learning new things!
I served this alongside an Asian inspired salad of roasted squash, watercress and rocket, supremed (how to here) orange segments and spring onions tossed together with white and black sesame seeds and a dressing of 2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil, 1 Tablespoon orange juice, 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar, and a pinch of salt.
- 4 duck legs
- 1 Tbs tamari
- 1 inch of root ginger, roughly chopped (no need to peel)
- 2 star anise
- 2 Tbs cashew or peanut butter
- 1 Tbs molasses
- 2 Tbs tamari
- 1 Tbs orange juice
- 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar (for authenticity)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Pinch freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch chili flakes (optional)
- Gem lettuce leaves, thinly sliced cucumber, spring onions.
- Place the duck legs in a large saucepan, cover with water, add the tamari, root ginger and star anise. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Drain the duck and set aside*.
- Pre-heat oven to 200C, so it is ready when the duck is finished poaching.
- Meanwhile mix the cashew butter with the molasses to form a smooth paste, then loosen it up with the tamari, orange juice, sesame oil and vinegar. Stir in the garlic and black pepper. Tamari is salty so you won’t need extra salt. The sauce will thicken up in the fridge.
- Place the duck skin side up on a baking tray. Brush the sticky hoisin on the skin side of the duck, then bake in the oven for 15 minutes until the skin is all nice and crispy. Place the rest of the sauce in a serving bowl and chill until required.
- Remove the duck legs from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes or so, then shred with 2 forks, discarding the bones.
- Let you guests make up their own Crispy Duck Leg Rolls by grabbing a leaf, filling it with duck, cucumber and onions, and drizzling extra sauce over them.
*Many thanks to Gressingham for the duck
What food from your old favourites list would you love to try again with a healthy twist?
p.s. Perhaps you enjoyed this post enough to consider voting for me in the 2015 UK Blog Awards – The blogosphere’s answer to the X factor. I’ve been nominated in the Health and Food & Drink categories (click on underlined words to go to voting pages), how exciting. Natural Kitchen Adventures has been the catalyst and drive for me to make so many amazing positive changes in my life over the last few years, and I hope this positive energy shines through from each and every recipe, word and photograph. I am so grateful that I’m still here doing what I love doing, and that you’re all still reading whoever you are. Thank you so very much for continuing to read. Voting closes on Dec 1st. Thank you. xx