Duck Pastrami; Medjool Date and Blood Orange Salad
Portion/Yield:Serves 6 as a starter or light lunch
The creation of this dish is a labour of love, but it’s well worth all the effort. The combination of the citrusy sweetness of the blood oranges and the bitter crunch of the chicory, creates the perfect accompaniment to balance the richness of the duck, especially cold duck that is turned into classic pastrami. It’s a festive plate of food, with its vibrant seasonal colours and flavours, and it is fit for a party or any special occasion.
Personally, I lose interest in dishes with a monotone texture, hence when developing recipes I’m looking to combine different textures as well as interesting flavours, to keep the mind and taste buds engaged until the last mouthful. This dish achieves all of that perfectly.
Ingredients & Method
For the duck pastrami
- 2 large duck breasts (about 170g each), with fat on
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 12 dried juniper berries
- 25g sea salt
- 50g soft dark brown sugar
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 300g long-grain white rice
- 100ml cold water
- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
For the blood orange and balsamic jelly
- 280ml freshly squeezed blood orange juice
- 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon agar agar powder
For the medjool date purée
- 200g medjool dates, stones removed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the Jerusalem artichoke purée
- 300g Jerusalem artichokes
- 20g unsalted butter
- 50ml double cream
To serve 2 heads white chicory, washed, drained and separated into leaves 1 blood orange, peeled and segmented fresh coriander cress
First, prepare the duck pastrami. Score the fat-side of the duck breasts with a sharp knife, being careful not to cut all the way through to the flesh. Remove and discard the silver skin or thin membrane from the underside of each breast.
Use a pestle and mortar to crush the coriander seeds, peppercorns, 6 of the juniper berries, the salt, brown sugar, garlic and chopped thyme together to form a paste. Rub the paste into the duck breasts, massaging it into the meat and fat. Place the duck breasts on a plate, cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for 12 hours or overnight, to allow the flavours to develop, before smoking the duck.
While the duck is marinating, put 200g of the rice into a bowl, cover with the water and set aside at room temperature for 12 hours or overnight.
Meanwhile, make the blood orange and balsamic jelly. Bring the blood orange juice and balsamic vinegar to the boil in a pan, then boil rapidly for 6–7 minutes or until reduced to 250ml. Stir in the agar agar powder, mix well, then bring back to a simmer and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, pour the hot liquid into a small white plastic tray (about 21 x 14 x 1.5cm in size) and leave to set completely at room temperature (don’t move the tray again until the mixture is set) – this will take about 2 hours. Once the jelly has set, cover with a lid and refrigerate.
While the jelly is setting, make the medjool date purée. Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend together to form a paste. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Transfer the date purée to a dish, cover and keep refrigerated until needed.
Once you are ready to smoke the duck, you will need to make a smoker using a deep roasting tin, a wire cooling rack and some foil. Line the roasting tin with a layer of foil, then spread the soaked rice (water and all, if the rice has not soaked up all the water), the remaining 6 juniper berries and the sprigs of thyme over the foil. Sprinkle the remaining 100g of dry (unsoaked) rice over the top, then position the cooling rack over the rice mixture.
Place the duck breasts, fat-side down, on to the cooling rack. Place the roasting tin on the hob over a high heat and start the smoking process. Heat until the rice starts to smoke. Cover the whole thing with a tent of foil and keep it over the heat for a further 2–3 minutes, then turn the heat off, remove from the heat and leave the duck breasts to smoke for 5 minutes. Return the roasting tin to the heat to create more smoke, then remove it from the heat again once enough smoke has built up. Leave to smoke for a further 5 minutes, then let the duck breasts cool completely on the rack in the roasting tin (leaving the whole thing covered with foil until cold). Once smoked, the duck meat will become a dark pink colour and the fat will turn yellow and look melted (but it will be soft not crispy). Serve the smoked duck breasts at room temperature.
For the Jerusalem artichoke purée, peel and slice the artichokes, then cook them in a pan of boiling salted water for about 10 minutes or until soft. Drain the artichokes, then purée them in a blender until very smooth. Add the butter and cream and blend to mix. If the purée is too thick, add a dash more cream, then add salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.
To serve, finely slice the duck breasts. Cut the jelly into 1/2cm squares. Spread some date purée over each serving plate, then place small drops of Jerusalem artichoke purée on to the plates. Arrange the duck slices, chicory, orange segments and coriander cress in the centre of the plates. Serve immediately.