Tuesday 8 July 2014

Raspberry Duck with Ginger Coconut Sweet Potato and Baked Asparagus

Duck always seemed luxurious to me. It’s got this great rich flavour, it feels a little exotic for some reason, and it’s the most expensive thing on the menu. Although I have no idea why that last part is the case. It’s actually pretty easy to find frozen duck that costs only a little more than decent quality chicken. So forget the restaurant and make your own decadent duck for dinner.

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

    Quickly scrub some sweet potatoes and put them in a pot of water to boil. Snap the woody ends off a bunch of asparagus and lay them on a tray lined with foil. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkle with pepper. Slice some butter over them and leave to one side.

    Pat dry a duck breast and score the fat. Rub with salt and pepper. Heat a pan and lay the duck in it, fat-side down. Turn the pan down to medium-low and cook for 8 minutes, flip, cook for 5 more. Remove the duck from the pan, cover in foil and leave somewhere warm to rest. Pour the juices out of the pan into a cup.

    Place the asparagus into an oven at 170ºC. Pour a shot of brandy and some hot water into the duck pan and simmer. Remove the top two thirds from the settled juices in the cup. Stir a teaspoon of cornflour into what remains, and add to the pan. Throw in a handful of raspberries and turn the heat down low.

    Drain the sweet potatoes now that they’re soft enough to slide a fork into. Let them cool enough to touch, then peel the skins off them. Add coconut cream and grated ginger and mash into a purée.

    Take the asparagus out of the oven, shave parmesan on top and return to the oven for just a minute. Uncover the duck and add any juices to the raspberry sauce. Slice the breast and move to the serving plate. Add a spoon of the mashed sweet potato to the plate along with the asparagus from the oven. Spoon the sauce over the duck, and serve.

Haute Cuisine at home, in the time it takes to boil a sweet potato. Give or take a minute.

I can’t pronounce Haute Cuisine, let alone cook it!

Sure you can! It’s simple and I’ll show you how.

The ingredients list below is enough for two servings, mostly because halving some of them is impractical. Everything besides the asparagus reheats well. I suppose, technically, you could cook this for someone special, but that kind of behaviour is not endorsed by this blog.


  • 2 duck breasts
  • 750g sweet potatoes
  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • 2cm of ginger
  • 30g butter
  • a handful of raspberries
  • 50ml brandy
  • 1tsp cornflour
  • 1 large bunch of asparagus
  • 20g parmesan
  • a little olive oil
  • just a squeeze of lemon juice

An important part of eating well on a budget, is to use what’s available. Asparagus is in season now, so it’s actually frighteningly cheap. When it’s out of season? Fuggedaboutit! Similarly, raspberries are in season too, and you might even have a neighbour who’ll give you a few if they grow ‘em. As for the brandy, it was already in the house. Use whiskey if you have some of that lying around instead. And the parmesan was left over from my lasagne. Pretty thrifty, eh?

    Start with the slowest part, the sweet potatoes. Just clean off any dirt or whatever and put them in a pot of cold water. If you have really big ones, maybe cut them in half, but otherwise don’t bother. Put a lid on the pot and get it boiling. From then, they should take about half an hour to cook. In the meantime, we’ll do everything else.

    Prepare the asparagus by getting rid of the ends. These bits are tough and woody and, while great for soups, are no good here. A very wise lady told me that the best way to do this is to hold the asparagus spear near both ends and bend it until it naturally snaps. The point it snaps at is where it just starts to get woody. Perfect results, every time! Line a baking tray with foil and lay the spears on it. Squeeze a little lemon juice over them and drizzle with a little olive oil. You can look like a pro by mostly covering the mouth of your bottle of olive oil with your thumb as you hold the neck. Only a thin trickle will come out, perfect for drizzling instead of drowning. Just look at all these great tricks! I really do spoil you. Anyway, slice a little bit of your butter on top of the asparagus spears and grind some pepper over them too. Now you can put them aside until you’re ready to cook them in the oven.

    On to the duck. Dry it off with some kitchen paper (paper towels) and with a sharp knife score the fat. To do this, just slice into the fat, but not the meat, every 1cm or so. Then rotate the breast and do the same again, making a criss-cross pattern. If you do it diagonally, it’ll look fancy. The reason to score the fat is so that it’ll melt faster, leaving you with just a little crispy fat on a very lean piece of meat. Rub the breasts (duck breasts, people. Focus!) with a little salt and pepper and they’re ready to go.

    When the sweet potatoes have been boiling for 15 minutes, preheat the oven to 170ºC. Heat up your frying pan, but keep the heat low and don’t bother using oil. Place the duck on the pan, fat-side down. The fat will start to render (melt) very quickly, providing it’s own oil. Fry them like this for 8 minutes, then flip them over. Cook until the meat is as well done as you like it, about 4 minutes for rare.

    Now everything kind of happens at once, so try to keep up. Put the asparagus in the oven, where it only needs 10 minutes to cook. Remove the duck from the frying pan, wrap it in foil and leave it to rest on a wooden board or a heated plate somewhere warm. Resting the meat helps it to retain its juices when you cut it, meaning it’s more succulent. It also gives you time to make the sauce. Pour the juices from the pan into a cup and let the fat rise to the top. It’s almost entirely fat, but don’t worry about that. Meanwhile, pour your brandy into the pan, plus about half as much water. Stir, then let it simmer, picking up all the flavours that stuck to the pan.

    Drain your cooked sweet potatoes (a fork should easily sink all the way through) and let them cool in the pot for a minute or two. While you wait, peel and grate the ginger and open your can of coconut milk. Unless you shook it, the contents should have separated, giving you coconut cream on top, and coconut water underneath. This is exactly how we want it.

    Back to the sauce, scoop off most of the fat that’s settled in your cup. Because it’s practically all fat, you’ll only be left with a couple of tablespoons now. Mix a teaspoon of cornflour into this, then add it to the pan with the brandy. Stir a little, turn the heat down really low and add the raspberries.

    Now your sweet potatoes are cool enough to touch, so pull the skins off them. They should come away really easily. Scoop all the coconut cream out of the can, and throw it in with the peeled sweet potatoes. Add in the grated ginger and some butter and mash it all up with a potato masher. Sweet potatoes are softer than normal potatoes, so it’ll very quickly become a purée. Season with some pepper, and it’s finished.

    But you’re not. Unwrap the duck breasts and pour all of those delicious juices that have pooled around them into the raspberry sauce. Take the asparagus out of the oven, grate or shave the parmesan over them, and put both the asparagus and the duck (in the tinfoil again), along with your plate, back in the oven for just one minute.

    Take everything out, slice the duck breast on a board and then place it on the heated plate. Add a tasteful dollop of the sweet potato to the dish, grate a touch more parmesan over the asparagus and artfully lay it astride the meat. To finish, elegantly spoon the sauce over the duck, before serving.

Now cram it in your face hole.

(With the coconut water that's left in the can, you can drink it straight or make hot chocolate by melting half a bar of dark chocolate in it. With the duck fat that you scooped off the juices, make roast potatoes. Or roast anything. Duck fat is the best.)

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