Duck season is upon us, and I've already had friends brave this sudden (although not unexpected) drop in temperature to get out there and go shooting. I'm more of a purchase-duck-at the supermarket kind of woman and lucky for us it's readily available and easy to cook. I've been intimidated by duck in the past but coming up with recipes for this column have proven it's much easier than I initially thought.
I was inspired to give duck a try after being at an event with Cloudy Bay wines recently. For the month of May, Cloudy Bay enlist chefs across the country to serve a duck dish paired with their iconic and beautiful Pinot Noir, for its Pinot and Duck tasting trail. It's a chance to try duck specially done by some of the best chefs around the country. I've gone for something a little more accessible for these recipes, and kept things simple. A very easy slow-cooker dish, and a simple pan-searing makes two simple and impressive meals. Don't forget the glass of red.
The Cloudy Bay Pinot and Duck Tasting Trail runs until May 31.
Pan-seared duck breast with simple slaw
4 duck breasts
Flaky sea salt
Splash of red wine
For the slaw
½ red cabbage, finely sliced
1 carrot, grated
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
Small handful nuts of your choice (peanuts or cashews are good)
For the dressing
½ red onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp chilli oil
1 tsp wine vinegar
Pinch flaky sea salt
Juice of half a lemon or lime
Whisk all dressing ingredients together in a small jug until emulsified. Taste and adjust seasoning to your own liking.
Mix the slaw ingredients together gently in a bowl. Set aside.
For the duck, remove it from the fridge at least 15 minutes before cooking - this helps regulate the temperature when cooking. Score the fatty skin with a criss-cross pattern and sprinkle with salt.
Heat the element to medium-high but keep the pan cold (this helps the fat come off the breast). Place the duck skin-side down in the pan and put on the heat.
Preheat the oven to 190C.
Allow the heat to increase and spoon off the fat as it pools in the pan (you can use this for your roast potatoes if you're cooking them). Once it's golden brown, flip the breast over to sear it for about a minute, then place in a roasting tray skin side up.
Place in the oven and cook for about 10 minutes, and then remove the roasting tray and rest for 5-10 minutes. Slice each breast and serve on the plate with a pile of slaw, and then drizzle the dressing over the slaw and the duck.
Red wine braised duck legs with five spice
4 duck legs
½ cup red wine
4 cloves garlic
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp Chinese five-spice
2 sprigs thyme
½ cup prunes
Season the duck well with salt and pepper.
Place the duck legs with all other ingredients into a slow cooker. Cook on low for at least 6 hours (or overnight).
Shred the duck off the bone and serve with mash and greens, or noodles and crunchy veges.
How to: brown butter
This may seem like a slightly obscure skill to master but you're going to have to trust me, because browned butter may just change your life. I was cornered in a kitchen last year at a dinner party I had catered and ended up in a discussion about browning butter, which turned to a demo because I needed to prove just how simple it is.
It's the kind of thing that works for sweet and savoury, and both in baking and in cooking. I am a self-taught butter-browner, and with a bit of confidence you'll be joining me in no time. The key is patience.
Firstly, you want a good frying pan - and probably not a cast iron one, as it's harder to control the heat. If you have a light coloured one then even better, because you'll be able to see the colour change clearly.
Secondly, you want a very decent chunk of butter - preferably unsalted, and cold or room temperature. Add butter to pan, heat the element to medium, and get ready to be patient. The butter has to melt first. You need it melted before it can brown. Once melted, it will crackle a little as the milk solids separate out. These are the bits that will go brown. Give the pan a swirl, but remain patient as the butter does its thing. At this point, it will start to smell amazing. Pretty much as soon as the flecks go brown, the rest will too. Swirl and remove from the heat. It all happens very quickly, so keep a close eye.
Before it fully goes brown, it is great to cook a piece of white fish in. It is also great in lieu of regular butter in any baking where you want a richer, more caramelised flavour. It will do wonders to your chocolate chip cookies, and will make your kitchen smell amazing.