Sunday, 9 March 2014

Spicy Sichuan Duck with Pineapple and Ginger

Well, I'm more than a little bit pleased with how this turned out, if I dare say so!

You know sometimes, when you have an idea in your head, of exactly what you want something to taste like, and somehow you manage to execute it all, and it turns out perfectly? And not only did I think it turned out great, the other half told me it was the best thing I'd cooked this year and everything was cooked perfectly, so I was very happy with the results!

OK, OK, enough raving about it (mouth is watering again!), I need to tell you what it is, and how to cook it, and those kinds of things! Oh, and did you know a skinless duck breast has quite a few less calories and fat per 100g than a skinless chicken breast (about 92 calories compared to 110)? Did you care? Do I? I don't know, but I do know I love duck!

It was supposed to be a 'serves two', but this is definitely a 'serves three' (and obviously more, if you serve it with other dishes) which makes it 206 calories per portion.

Use the full amount of Sichuan (Szechuan) peppercorns, and fresh chilli pepper for a dish which is quite spicy, and obviously halve the amounts (or less) for something more 'medium' (or if you don't like spicy food, but do like 'sweet and sour' type dishes, just leave out the Sichuan peppercorns and chilli pepper altogether).
 If you're not counting calories, then feel free to be more generous with the oil. If you want to leave the skin on the duck, then I would advise scoring it in diamonds, then roasting in a pan with a tiny amount of oil (fat renders fat) skin side down, to crisp up the skin a little first, before slicing and continuing. If you use tins of water chestnuts and bamboo shoots, you can use the leftovers in my Pork with Straw Mushrooms, Bamboo and Fermented Black Beans recipe!

  • 2 large duck breasts, e.g. Gressingham, without skin (270g without skin) [248]
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp (level) of whole Sichuan (Szechuan) peppercorns [4]
  • 1/2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch) [18]
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce (use Tamari if cooking gluten free) [4]
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed [6]
  • 1 tsp neutral oil (e.g. sunflower, groundnut, ricebran etc.) [45]
  • 1 large red chilli pepper, deseeded and finely chopped [7]
  • 1 1/2 to 2 inches ginger root, peeled and cut into matchsticks [7]
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cut into bite-size pieces (80g) [21]
  • Optional 5g dried black fungus (tree ear), or dried wood ear / cloud ear / shiitake mushrooms (soaked in water for 30 minutes, or as per instructions then cut into thin strips, discarding any thick/tough stalky parts) [10]
  • 70g water chestnuts, sliced [13]
  • 60g bamboo shoots, sliced into strips [8]
  • 180g pineapple flesh, cut into bitesize chunks (tinned is fine) [81]
  • 3 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal [11]
  • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil [23]

For the sauce
  • 130ml pineapple juice [62]
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce (or Tamari for gluten free) [8]
  • 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar [2]
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional, but makes quite a difference to the flavour) [16]
  • 2 level tsp cornflour in a jug or bowl [24]

1. Put the fungus/mushrooms in water to soak while you prepare all the other ingredients. 

2. Crush the Sichuan peppercorns, e.g. in a pestle and mortar.

3. Cut the skinless duck breast into slices about 1/2cm thick. Mix the crushed Sichuan peppercorns with the cornflour and salt, and coat the duck breast slices evenly in the mixture. Add the soy sauce and crushed garlic to the duck mixture, and combine thoroughly.

4. For the 'sauce', mix the pineapple juice with the soy sauce and rice wine vinegar, and stir in the sugar until dissolved, then set aside.

5. Heat a large, good quality, non-stick wok (or similar) over a high heat until really hot (test it by flicking a few drops of water in, and seeing if they immediately sizzle and hiss), add 1/2 tsp of the (neutral) oil, swirl it around, and add the duck, tossing it quickly to *just* brown and sear the outside, quickly removing it to a cold plate or dish as soon as you've coloured the outside. You don't want to cook the duck all the way through at this stage, because you're adding it back to the pan near the end of cooking. (When you add it back you can decide how much you want the duck cooked. Personally, I like it pink.)

6. Put the wok back on the heat, add the remaining 1/2 tsp of oil and then add the ginger and chillies, and toss for about 20 seconds to flavour the oil. Add the red pepper and fungus/mushrooms (if using) and stir fry for another couple of minutes, then add the bamboo and water chestnuts for a further minute. 

7. Mix some of the pineapple juice into the cornflour, until it is thoroughly incorporated without lumps, then add the rest whilst you keep stirring, then add to the wok with the pineapple chunks. Reduce the heat and continue to stir until the sauce has thickened, then stir in your duck and cook for another minute or two depending on how much you want your duck cooked. 

8. Stir in the majority of the spring onions and the toasted sesame oil, taste for seasoning, and then serve garnished with the remaining spring onions, and enjoy!

This would also be delicious made with chicken breast or pork loin slices (cook a little longer at the end until cooked all the way through), or big juicy king prawns. Vegetarians could substitute mushrooms, courgette slices, firm tofu cubed, extra vegetables, and a handful of cashew nuts to make this into a delicious vegetarian dish.

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