BootsnAll Travel Network

British-Chinese Fusion Cooking: Tea-poached Roast Duck

(Cross-posted from my LJ)

Chinese-Western fusion cooking sounds like a recipe for disaster, but I had an idea for a warm seasonal dish that relies on local ingredients and exotic spices and captures the spirit of my recent up-and-downs in China and the UK: Tea-and-cider-poached roast duck with caramelised apples and pears & mustardy cabbage.

Sounds like a mouthful? That’s because it is. I have often wanted to cook tea-smoked duck but decided that I’d better not get the fire brigade involved, and the weather is decidedly too cold for outdoors cooking at this time of year. In fact, Shanghai and London share the same temperatures today (14-15o during the day, around 7o at night—it gets cold in Shanghai too).

So I thought I’d experiment with duck poached in tea and then roasted. A spice glaze added before roasting would boost flavour and warmth and, since duck partners well with fruit, I decided to add cider to the mix and serve it with caramelised apples and pears. Mustardy cabbage struck me as a good counter-balance to the richness of the meat and sweet, buttery fruit.

With regard to the latter, it is important not to make this dish too sweet. Duck is already sweet but is mostly served with tooth-achingly gooey sauces or glazes. I halved the sweetness content of this recipe and made sure that the sugar was caramelised to the point of bitterness before adding the fruit, but your mileage may vary. As for flavouring, I used whatever was to hand: a number of ancient Oolong tea bags with a best-before date back in 2005 and a few drops of lemon essence stood in for the Earl Grey tea used in the original recipe.

The Finished Meal

For poaching the duck:

  • 1 duck,
  • 1 onion,
  • 6-8 tea bags (black/jasmine/Earl Grey),
  • 350 ml cider,
  • 1 TB honey,
  • lemon zest or lemon essence,
  • 1-2 TB dark soy sauce,
  • 2 star anise,
  • 1cm piece of stem ginger,
  • 1-2 cm piece of cassava bark or cinnamon,
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary.

If the duck comes with gizzards, fry them off and add them. Fry the liver very briefly and mash it beforehand.

I made this in the slow cooker as I did not have an oval casserole dish. In that case heat the liquid before adding it to the pot and cook on ‘high’ for 3-4 hours. Otherwise poach for 1 hr.

Prick the duck all over. Chop the onion roughly and stuff it inside the cavity. Make a strong tea by steeping the tea bags in 700 ml of hot water for 5 minutes. Put the duck into a casserole dish and pour over the liquids until it is just covered, topping it up with hot water if necessary. The duck will float but can be turned half-way during the cooking process. Add all the other ingredients and poach as above. Lift out the duck, strain the liquid, skim off the fat (use it for the potatoes) and reduce until glossy, seasoning to taste.

Spice glaze:

  • 1tsp each rock salt and Szechuan peppercorns, roasted and crushed together (smoked salt may be good here!),
  • 1 tsp 5-spice seasoning (szechuan pepper, fennel, clove, star anise, cinnamon),
  • scant tsp runny marmalade,
  • 1 tsp honey,
  • a dash of oil

Brush over the still warm duck and roast in a very hot oven (240oC/GM 9) for 40 minutes, together with par-boiled potatoes and carrots/parsnips tossed in the duck fat and caramelised apples & pears. For the latter, heat up some oil and butter, add sugar until caramelised, turn wedges of fruit in the mix and add it to the oven.

Caramelized Apples & Pears

Mustardy Cabbage:
Shred a few cabbage leaves (Savoy is good) and a leek (or chop an onion). Fry some bacon lardons with the leek or onion inoil/butter until the latter is soft and stir in the cabbage leaves until they turn floppy. Add about 200ml of hot chicken stock (a cube is fine) and a good sprinkling of white pepper. Stir in a good tablespoon of grain mustard (French is best!). Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. The cabbage should be soft and the liquid all but evaporated (take the lid off for the final 5 minutes or so).


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