Saturday, February 2, 2013

Chinese New Year Flavour

Chinese New Year is fast approaching and on 10th February we will be welcoming the arrival of  the 2013 year of the Water Snake. For some reason, I always get inspired by the new energy that the Lunar New Year brings so I thought it was the perfect time to cook something with a Chinese flavour in keeping with this celebration. Peking duck pancakes have always been a big favourite and my lovely husband Andrew has been asking lately if I could have a go at making them at home. Well, this week I got my act together and finally got around to it, creating my own version of this classic and very popular dish.

There is a real art to true, super shellac like, glossy and parchment crisp Peking duck that is pretty tricky to reproduce in a home kitchen. We are lucky enough to live in a neighbourhood where buying Peking duck fresh from the Chinese BBQ store is easy, so realistically just buying the duck and making the pancakes myself would be a viable shortcut. However, I decided that I would aim for a recipe that would give all the delights of Peking duck whilst being easy to put together for the home cook - and for those who don't have the luxury of having a Chinese BBQ outlet around the corner!

For any Peking duck experts reading this, I don't pretend that this is 100% authentic (the duck does not go through the usual drying processes)  but the result is a delicious try-and-stop-at-one pancake, with the gorgeous flavour of the traditional version.

So, why not celebrate Chinese New Year with a batch of these delicious treats? I warn you though that they are very moreish - best make a double batch!

Crispy Glazed Duck Pancakes
with cucumber, onion and hoisin sauce

You will need: 2 duck breasts skin on, 1 small continental cucumber, 4 spring onions, 1 cup Hoisin sauce, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon minced chilli, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, salt.

For the pancakes: 1/2 cup plain flour, 3 tablespoons cornflour, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup milk, 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon melted butter, pinch of salt.

Method:  First, make the pancake batter. Combine the flour, cornflour, water, milk, eggs, salt and butter and blend until super smooth. (I used a stick blender to do this) Pour into a jug, cover and stand for 15 minutes.
Now make the duck glaze by combining the honey, garlic, chilli, sesame oil and salt. Set aside.
De-seed the cucumber and cut into fairly thin strips. Do the same with the spring onion. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
Preheat the oven to 200C. Dry the duck breasts with a paper towel. Season the duck breasts with a little salt on both sides. Heat a non stick fry pan to a medium heat and cook the duck skin down for 6-8 minutes, draining off the fat as it renders down. When the duck is a deep golden colour, turn it over and cook it skin side up for about 3 minutes.
Transfer the duck to a baking tray and cook in the oven for 8-10 minutes (timing will depend on the size of the duck breasts) Remove the duck from the oven and brush both sides with half the glaze mixture. Return the duck to the oven for another 10 minutes.
Remove the duck from the oven, brush with the rest of the glaze mixture and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Now, make the pancakes. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Brush with a little extra butter if you wish. Pour a tablespoonful of batter into frying pan. Spread to form a thin pancake, about the size of the palm of your hand. Cook for 2 minutes. Turn and cook for a further 1 minute. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining batter. The pancakes should be pale and not browned. Turn the heat down if they colour up too much.
Slice the duck into thin slices and serve with the pancakes, spring onion and cucumber, with the Hoisin sauce on the side. Serve right away.
Makes about 15 small pancakes.

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