Rich was away for the most part of last week in Taiwan and got back in on Saturday afternoon with a hangover waiting in the wings to kick in from the night before. He went off for a massage to help with the recovery and to set him up for some quality time in the evening with me!
I have to admit that when I’m on my own I tend to resort to cheese & tomato tortillas dry fried in a pan to save on washing up. Sloppy I know but it’s nice to have a break from cooking diligently every night. Knowing that Saturday night was going to be our last quiet one before Rich starts having work commitments and I leave for Melbourne , I booked a restaurant that had been on my list for a while and which had fantastic write-ups everywhere. I warned Rich it was going to be at the top of the expensive range – which was a good thing in retrospect because the wines started around the $90 mark. Eeeeeekkk.
Dinner started off ok but it never really went anywhere other than ok. The large open kitchen with counter seating definitely had wow factor and we asked to be seated there rather than at the table we were offered initially. I didn’t bother taking any photos until half way through our main course. The chef had finished plating up the seared tuna for a large party and then just as Rich was tucking into his suckling pig the chef brought out two suckling pig carcasses and proceeded to break them down in full view of everyone at the counter.
I think by now you know we are pretty open minded about where our food comes from and the various levels of hygiene in Shanghai but this startled us I have to admit.
The party to my left were oohing and aaahing and saying how ‘awesome’ it was. The couple next to us got up to get a closer view. I just sat there and thought about the chef using his fingers to plate up the tuna and then having raw piglet next to plated food….maybe I’m being too fussy.
Admittedly the chef did turn around and ask us if it was OK just as he was taking off the head of the second piglet. By then the damage had been done and all I could think of was how my vegetarian friend who recommended the restaurant would have felt if she was sitting at the counter. The whole episode added to the general sense of feeling underwhelmed so we didn’t bother with a dessert preferring to come home for some chocolate instead!
Fast forward to Sunday night when I called Richard into the kitchen to witness the magic I was conjuring up with the duck legs from the Friday mystery box.
Thank you to everyone for your suggestions – which I
promptly ignored saved for another day because when I walked into the co-op across the road on Saturday morning I saw a box of plums and I remembered a Jamie Oliver recipe from ages ago that I wanted to give a try.
The fact that I went in for tomatoes and came out with plums is totally besides the point. So is that I had no idea how many plums I needed so bought a kilo. And that kilo of plums cost more than the duck. And that I had to go back to the Avocado Lady for another two legs……eeuugghh what an odyssey I really do need a shopping list when I leave the house.
What can I tell you? Richard came into the kitchen and saw the four burnished duck legs, tasted the plum sauce and watched me plating everything up and all he could say was ‘why am I only getting one leg if there’s four in the pan?’.
Ah well. That will be because I need to take photos for the blog tomorrow.
Obviously. I can’t believe you don’t know that by now.
And anyway you can have it again for your dinner tomorrow night. Let’s just call that payback for coming home with a hangover.
When I asked him how it was he said ‘F*%$ing fantastic. A thousand times better than last night’s dinner and a darn sight cheaper’. He literally smacked his lips together.
Monday night he called on the way home and all he said was ‘get that duck ready I’ll be home in 10 minutes’.
It really is a winner – just don’t break up the star anise and cinnamon like I did for some reason cos it’s a bugger to pick out of the jammy sauce. Jamie’s recipe asks for 16 plums which is a little vague re weight. The plums in the shops here are massive and a kilo was probably a little too much. If plums are expensive where you are you can get away with 750-800g I think. I added mandarin peel and ginger to the marinade and I’d encourage you to do the same – it adds to the fragrance and the finished sauce is bloody fantastic.
So what do you think – were we being overly sensitive in the restaurant or would you have been put off too?
In any case, we certainly appreciated our Sunday night dinner all the more!
Sweet duck legs cooked with plums & star anise
- 4 duck legs
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tsp five spice
- 1 handful star anise
- 1 stick cinnamon
- peel of 1 mandarin or 1/2 orange use a potato peeler for large pieces
- 4 cm piece of ginger thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1-2 fresh red chillies deseeded and sliced
- 1 kg plums halved and destoned
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2-3 tbsp water
Place the duck legs in a sandwich bag with the soy sauce, five spice, star anise, cinnamon stick, mandarin peel, ginger slices and olive oil and leave them to marinade for at least two hours or preferably overnight.
Preheat the oven to 170C.
Find a tray or casserole dish big enough to snugly fit the duck legs. Place the chillies, plums, sugar and water in the bottom of the tray and pour the marinade from the bag over the top. Mix together and place the duck legs on top.
Do not cover. Place the tray in the oven for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until the meat falls away from the bone.
Leave the meat to rest on a covered plate and drain off the juice from the tray. Skim off the fat and return to the tray.
At this point you can mash up the plums to make a jammy sauce. Reserve a few of the nicer looking pieces for presentation purposes if that matters to you because the sauce will be an unattractive plummy brown colour by now - which is a bit of a shame because it is totally delicious.
Serve with boiled rice and Chinese greens.