Forgive the Jamie-esque title of this post: but I couldn't stop myself.....

Last week, I went to the new oriental supermarket in Kingston (near John Lewis) and purchased a shed-load of exotic ingredients which I will probably only use once before consigning to the back of the larder where they will moulder away with all those other curious condiments I bought thinking "that looks interesting" - such as lavender cordial from the south of France (never tried) and Italian fruits in mustard (also never tried). The herbs were so cheap at the Asian supermarket, that I made two vats of green Thai curry sauce, and then chucked the rest of the kaffir lime leaves away because they were turning brown. Of course, I should have dried them for future use, but there was Liszt to be practised and Schubert to be refined: sometimes it ain't easy being a cook AND a pianist....

I love crispy aromatic duck, that staple of your local Chinese restaurant. I don't actually eat it at my local Chinese restaurant very often because a) I don't go out to eat that often, preferring to cook at home; and b) I'm not that keen on oriental food. So I buy my crispy duck from M&S: it's definitely the best supermarket version, being both generous and tasty.

One of the things I purchased at the oriental supermarket was those little pancakes which go round the  crispy duck. At dinner at a friend's house a couple of weeks ago, she served her own take on Chinese pancakes as a canape: instead of crispy duck, she filled them with Parma ham, a slice of roasted red pepper, a couple of rocket leaves and a smear of Hoisin sauce, as a nod to the oriental original. The whole thing was beautifully tied with a chive stem. I copied the combo at home, replacing the rocket with basil, and nearly fainted with excitement at having created something so simple and so tasty. The pancakes come in handy 6-packs, so you can freeze them and defrost small quantities as you need them.

The method for cooking the duck comes from Nigella Lawson's 'Kafkaesque Duck' from her first book How to Eat. Basically, you steam the duck in a bath of water, scrape as much of the fat off the skin as you can, and then roast it in a hot oven. It results in deliciously succulent meat with perfectly crispy skin, though the steaming process does fill the kitchen with a rather pungent 'ducky fug' (do not try saying that quickly when drunk!). For my crispy duck, I steamed leg joints, rubbed them with plenty of salt and Chinese five-spice powder and then roasted them. The duck is still cooking as I write, so it remains to be seen what the end result will be like, but I have high hopes: it certainly smells right. The spring onions and cucumber, the obligatory accompaniments to the traditional crispy duck, are already prepared, and there's a nice bottle of Chilean red wine just begging to be opened......

You can find a more comprehensive recipe from Nigella Lawon here.


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