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Duck Breast Salad with Spiced Pears

January 12, 2006

My hairdresser likes to talk food while she snips hair. She sounds like she is no slouch in the kitchen herself and enjoys chatting with clients about recipes, food outlets, restaurants.

Recently she mentioned she'd heard their was a duck retail outlet in the area. Armed with the name and not much else, I managed to find it.

LuvADuck turned out to be a spacious retail showroom with chiller cabinets and freezers packed with interesting duck products. The business is based on ducks produced on a 200 hectare farm, surrounded by thousands of hectares of golden grain fields. The ducks are a special breed, featuring a young, tender, meaty duck with a high breast meat thickness. The processing plant is equipped with state-of-the-art processing equipment and is accredited for export.

Along with the duck products, the showroom has a good array of chutneys, sauces and seasonings to team with duck dishes. But my attention was taken by the classroom at the rear. There, I learned, regular demonstrations are held to teach home chefs all about duck preparation and cooking. (You'll find plenty of information and recipes on their website).

A friend and I signed up for a forthcoming class and were soon munching through duck sausages, duck breast, duck confit. It's a good way to learn - and have some fun at the same time. I came away with a couple of duck breasts, ready for the pan.

Duck breast has a fair covering of fat and it is best to render some of it down in the first stages of cooking. The fat also serves to keep the duck breast moist during cooking – and you don’t have to eat it if you prefer not to. It will peel away quite easily.

Incidentally, duck fat is cherished by many cooks as a vital ingredient for making crisp roast potatoes.

Duck is delicious served with spiced pears. They have a nice bite from the vinegar but the flavour is mellowed out by the addition of onions and a little brown sugar. I was luck enough to find some tiny pears which looked good just quartered. If you can find only large ones, they can be diced.

For a winter meal, the duck could be served on blanched Asian greens dressed with a little sesame oil.

Duck Breast Salad with Spiced Pears

4 duck breasts
wild rocket leaves

Score the skin of the duck in crisscross fashion. Season with salt. Cook skin side down in a hot pan for four minutes to crisp the skin and release some of the fat. Turn over and cook for a couple of minutes then place in a 200C pre-heated oven for 8-10 minutes. Rest for 10 minutes before carving diagonally into slices. Place on a bed of rocket leaves and serve with warm spiced pears.

For the pears you will need:

2 tablespoons duck fat or oil
1 medium onion finely diced
1 teaspoon ginger finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoon white wine vinegar
8 small pears or 4 larger ones

Peel the pears and quarter lengthwise, leaving the stem on if possible. Remove the core. Drop into acidulated water till you are ready to use them.

Saute the onion and ginger for 10 minutes then add the pears the spices and brown sugar and cook  gently till the pears start to caramelise. Add the vinegar and cook for a further five minutes.

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