I am lucky enough to have a number of friends who hail from China. One of their number (who shall remain nameless for fear of my causing any embarrassment) went back to her home city to visit a sick relative. Knowing of my love for Oriental cookery, she brought me back a knife. I thought I should celebrate by starting a small series on Chinese inspired dishes.
Despite the photo above, this post is as much about the sauce as the duck. “Plum sauce?” you query in an internal voice of some disdain. “What’s so special about plum sauce?” There is very little special about the average plum sauce poured from a jar or served in an aero-board cup along with your over-chewy take away ribs. What makes this both interesting and very special is any fool can prepare it (yes, I know, I did) at minimal cost and it is probably the best you will ever taste.
As with so many Chinese recipes served here in the West, there seems to not be a standard for plum sauce. In my research for this I came across recipes that contained tomato sauce, nutmeg and even one that had plum sauce as an ingredient. Riddle me that? I am keeping it very simple. To prepare Five Spice Duck with Ginger Plum Sauce for four people, you will need only three ingredients for the sauce.
- 7 or 8 plums
- 2cm of root ginger
- 100 grammes of caster sugar
You will need two for the duck.
- 4 duck breasts
- Five spice powder
Firstly, quarter the plums. If the stones don’t come out easily, leave them in. They will separate during cooking.
Chop the ginger nice and fine and add it, with the sugar and a little water, to the plums in a saucepan.
Put this on to a low heat and let everything reduce into a thick sauce. Fish out the stones if you wish.
While the sauce is doing its thing, you can attend to the duck. Place the duck breast meat side down on the chopping board. Using a (new) sharp knife, gently cut through the skin and fat on the duck breast. Don’t cut into the meat. Do it like in the photo.
Next, rub plenty of five spice powder into both sides of the breasts.
I did trim some of the excess fat from the sides of the breasts. Do so if necessary.
The five spice works as a counterbalance for the fattiness of the duck and also for the acidity of the sauce. Don’t be mean with it. Fry the duck breasts, skin side down, pouring off the fat as you go. When it looks nice and crispy, turn the duck and fry for a couple of minutes. It will look very tasty at this stage.
Then place the frying pan in a 200ºC oven for 5 minutes. Let the duck rest for 5 to 10 minutes before carving.
We had the duck with couscous (sorry, there is nothing Chinese about that). My mum, for she was one of the diners, said that it was the best thing I had ever cooked. The ginger plum sauce was sharp, sweet and warming and worked beautifully with the spiced duck.
Side note on economy: The duck breasts were the same price as chicken breasts in our local supermarket. This was one inexpensive meal. You have no excuses. Try it.
I have plenty of recipes coming up in this series. Look out for them and for my lovely new knife.