This dish is an homage to hard-working women.
It is inspired by the great Kylie Kwong, whom I deeply admire not only for her talent and taste, but for her incredibly down-to-earth approach to her business. (How many top chefs would you see working at their own little market stall most weekends?)
This recipe is adapted from a dish served at Billy Kwong, one of my all-time favourite establishments. The original is a truly spectacular creation involving a whole duck which is spiced, marinated, steamed, floured and deep-fried till uber crisp.
However, as much as I love it, I’m about as likely to make it at home as I am to make soufflé. So I have created this version for working ladies like myself who love a bit of tart, fragrant Kylie-style duck but can’t face the idea of 24 hours’ prep, not to mention the wiping of all those greasy kitchen surfaces post-deep frying.
The resulting recipe is weeknight-friendly, a little more humble, but hugely satisfying.
• 4 duck breasts
• 1 tbsp Szechuan peppercorns
• 1 tsp coarse sea salt
• 1 cup soft brown sugar
• ½ cup water
• ½ cup fish sauce
• 8 star anise
• 2 cinnamon sticks
• 1 dried red chilli (optional)
• Juice of 3 limes
• 1 orange, peeled and cut crossways into four slices
• Vietnamese mint and orange zest (optional), to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2. Toast the peppercorns and salt in a dry pan until fragrant, then crush with the flat side of a cleaver.
3. Score the skin of each duck breast several times. Thoroughly pat the duck dry with paper towel, then rub with the salt and pepper.
4. Heat a large, heavy-based frypan over a medium heat. Then place the duck breasts skin-side down and cook for 5 minutes, until the skin is golden
brown and crisp.
5. Turn and cook the other side for 5 minutes, then remove the duck from the pan and place skin-side up on a tray or dish.
6. Turn off the oven, then place the duck breasts in the oven while you make the sauce. Remove most of the fat from the frying pan (keep it for your roast potatoes).
7. Add the sugar and water and stir well. Bring to a simmer.
8. Pour in the fish sauce and vinegar and add the spices. Simmer the sauce for 5–6 minutes, until reduced and syrupy. Add the juice, orange slices and remove from the heat.
9. Slice each breast at an angle into pieces just under 1cm thick.
10. Divide the slices between four plates and add a slice of orange to each. Pour the sauce around the duck. Scatter with mint and zest and serve immediately.
Recipe by Olivia Mackay, www.scoffandquaff.wordpress.com