Thursday, 10 November 2016

RECIPE: Home cooked Peking-style Duck

Last year I went on a Chinese Cookery day at the famous cookery school, Le Cordon Bleu. One of the dishes we made was Peking Duck. It was fascinating but definitely not a dish to make at home - it needed a proper Peking duck complete with head, some Maltose, a set of hanging hooks, an air pump, a blast chiller and a special duck oven, rather like a tandoor only with a lid and a spy hole. I have none of those in my kitchen, but nevertheless this week, inspired by having bought a packet of Chinese pancakes on a visit to Wing Yip, I decided to give it a try and see if I could get a reasonable version of the flavours and textures at home.

For my version, the only specialist equipment you need is a roasting rack. A couple of butchers hooks and a second person to hold them for a few minutes would come in handy too. And you'll need to start the preparation quite early in the morning in order to eat in the evening. You'll also need to clear quite a big space in your fridge before you start work.

I used a 2kg duck, which when served with pancakes, spring onions, cucumber and Hoi Sin sauce (or Peking Duck Sauce which I bought from Wing Yip and tastes much more like the sauce served in restaurants) gave a massive main course helping for 2-3 people. Served as a starter it would have served at least 6.


1 x 2kg duck plus pancakes, spring onions, cucumber and sauce to serve

basting mixture

thumb sized knob of ginger, sliced (no need to peel)
2 cloves garlic, roughly crushed
1 lemon
1 clementine/satsuma
4 tbs white wine vinegar
1 tbs honey
1 tsp salt
6 star anise or the equivalent amount of broken ones, there's no need to use the pretty ones in this
a small cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 tsp Szechuan whole pepper (or if you can't get them, ½ tsp 5-spice powder)


2 tbs honey
6 tbs Dark Sweet Freedom syrup (you could use black treacle but I find the Sweet Freedom has just the right amount of colour)
1 tbs white wine vinegar
2 tbs dark soy sauce

First, place all the basting mixture ingredients in a large saucepan, add 1 litre of water and bring to the boil, then simmer very gently for half an hour while you prepare the duck.

Now place the roasting rack in a dish large enough to comfortable hold it while still fitting into that space in your fridge. Remove the duck from the packaging, discarding or saving the giblets  if they have been provided, and use your fingers to gently loosen as much of the breast flesh from the skin as possible, sliding them between skin and flesh through both the neck and cavity ends and being as careful as possible not to tear the flesh.

Next, if you have any butchers hooks, push them through the flesh and skin at the cavity end, hooking the metal under any convenient bit of bone you can find in order to support the weight of the duck.  If you have no hooks, you'll need to hold the duck very carefully for the next bit, to avoid getting the scalding liquid on your hands.

Remove the pan of basting mixture from the heat and holding the duck vertically over it (ideally you have the second person there, holding it by the hooks to keep their hands safe) use a ladle to scoop the liquid over the duck, pouring it on from the top so that it runs down all over and back into the pan. Keep on ladling and pouring for as long as you can bear to hold the duck - between 5 and 10 minutes.

Take the hooks out of the duck and place it on the roasting rack. Discard the remaining basting mixture.

Mix together the glaze ingredients - you may need to slacken it off with a little boiling water to help the thicker ingredients to mix - and then brush the duck all over, breast, back, under the wings and legs, every scrap of flesh with it. Place the duck in the fridge and chill for several hours, brushing with more glaze every hour or so until it is all used up. Remove the duck from the fridge 3 hours before you aim to serve it and allow to stand at room temperature. Line a roasting tin with foil and transfer the duck, breast side up and still on the rack, to it.

Two hours before serving, heat your oven to the highest setting, 240 C, 220 fan, 475 F gas mark 9. Put your duck on its roasting tin into the oven. Cook for 15 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 180 C, 160 fan, 350 F gas mark 4 and roast for 30 minutes per kilogramme, so 1 hour for a 2kg duck. Turn off the heat and leave the duck to stand in the cooling oven for at least 15 minutes - this is the perfect time to steam or microwave your pancakes and shred some spring onions and cucumber to go with it. When the duck comes out of the oven, the skin will be glistening and caramelised, and where you have managed to separate it from the flesh, lovely and crispy.

To serve the duck, cut the skin into small pieces so that everyone gets some, and then shred the meat. The traditional way to do this is with two forks, but we find a carving knife and fork the easiest to use.

Eat it by thinly spreading a pancake with Hoi  Sin sauce, putting a few slivers of cucumber and spring onion on it, adding some duck meat and skin and rolling up then eat it like a mini wrap.

If you are lucky enough to have a very meaty duck and there is meat left over, try adding it to a stir fry next day - spring onions, ginger, walnuts and plum sauce would work beautifully with it.

I've added a print button - but note that it tends to work best if you choose the PDF option rather than the actual print one. No, I've no idea why!

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Barb said...

YUM!!! This looks so tastey Jane. You've got a lucky family! Barbxx

Mark Willis said...

Official comment by the "Second Person": The duck was very yummy indeed. Worth every minute of holding a 2kg bird suspended by butcher's hooks while the First Person doused it with scalding liquid. No-one was (seriously)harmed during this operation, but it could easily have been otherwise...!