Recipe: Duck, Apple & Cucumber Salad with Malt Crumble (& The Importance of Eating Locally)

One of the big buzz words this year is sustainability. Whether it’s cutting down on your plastic consumption (I always, always travel with a bottle of water in my bag for this very reason) or making more ethical food choices, it’s quite clear that sustainability is going to be a BIG thing in 2018. And that’s something I can get on board with.

One of the easiest ways to eat more sustainable is to purchase local, seasonal produce. Veggies and fruit grown in the UK will have a smaller carbon footprint than imported produce (and let’s face it, imported strawberries eaten in the depths of winter just don’t taste that good). You can say the same for meat too. Sure, you can argue that it’s not really possible to eat meat ethically, but going vegetarian just isn’t for me (more on that another time). This is a compromise. My butcher can tell me the exact breed of cow, the exact farm my steak hails from. And of course, cutting meat-eating down to just a few times a week goes a long way to eating more sustainably, plus it cuts your food budget too. Winner, winner, no-chicken dinner if you ask me!

With all this in mind, I was asked to create a dish made from locally-sourced ingredients, and worth of a dinner party. Living in London makes this a tad more difficult that it perhaps would do elsewhere, but I’d like to think we managed okay-ish. I will say the cucumber was not local – I have an in-built fear of UK-grown cucumbers (my Granddad had an allotment for years and years, and the one thing that was pretty much inedible was the cucumbers, always so bitter!) so this was imported direct from Sainsbury’s shelves. For a completely local dish it could be left off, or you could try your luck with a UK-grown one! The duck came from our local butcher, and we were assured it hadn’t travelled far. The kale was from a local market, but you could easily use another leafy green vegetable that’s more seasonal/local. The malt crumble was the star of the show. We picked up the malt from a brewery in Bermondsey – and I’m so looking forward to introducing it into other recipes. For more tips on eating ethically, have a look here.

The resulting dish is absolutely delicious. Inspired by a recipe from The New Nordic (one of the most beautiful cookbooks on our shelves), the combination of ingredients sound like they shouldn’t work – but they totally too. The cucumber mellows the sharp apple, so the tartness blends with the dish. At the same time the cucumber adds a welcome freshness, cutting through the rich duck. The malt crumble adds the most wonderful texture, and it even has the combination of crunchy and soggy that the best fruit crumbles have. Here we’ve simplified the original recipe a tad – whilst it looks and sounds impressive it’s decidedly easy to put together!

Ingredients (Serves 3-4 as a Starter, or 2 as a Main with some good bread)

  • 1 granny smith apple, half cored and thinly sliced into water with a squeeze of lemon (to prevent it from browning), the other half left whole
  • 1 large duck leg
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 200ml chicken stock (if you’ve used homemade, you can leave out the carrot and celery above)
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 50g salted butter
  • 60g oats
  • 1 tablespoon malt
  • 2 tablespoons wholewheat flour
  • 1 cucumber
  • 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt
  • 150g kale – we prefer to buy whole leaves and leave them chunkier, rather than the bags of shredded stuff you can buy
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

In a hot frying pan (don’t add any oil), brown the duck legs, skin side down, until they have rendered all their fat and the skin is golden brown. Turn them over and cook for 1 minute before placing with the whole half apple in a casserole dish. Sauté the carrot and celery in the duck fat and then add the stock and vinegar. Deglaze the pan by scraping up any bits stuck to the base, then pour over the duck. Cover the casserole with a layer of foil and then top with the lid, then cook at 170°C for 1½ hours.

Meanwhile, make the crumble by rubbing together  the butter, oats, malt and flour. Spread out the mix on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 10 minutes, or until golden. Set aside.

To make the charred cucumber, preheat a grill (we used a George Foreman). Halve the cucumber lengthways and remove and discard the seeds – I find it easiest to scoop them out using a teaspoon. Cut each length in half to give you 4 batons. Place them skin side towards the heat and cook for 5 minutes on each side, until soft and lightly charred. Transfer to a food processor, add the yoghurt and plenty of seasoning, and blend briefly. You want the mix relativity smooth, but still retaining some texture. Set aside. Best not to make this part too far in advance as I find it can go a little watery.

When the duck is ready, use two forks to pull the meat apart. Return the meat to the cooking juices to keep it warm. You can discard the carrot and celery, as these were just used to add a base note of flavour to the duck – however if you’d prefer not to waste them you could leave them out. A bit of a tip – if you make your own chicken stock, we keep a bag of offcuts (celery/leek ends, carrot peelings) in the freezer to simmer with the chicken carcass to reduce food waste.

Wash and pat dry the kale, chopping it into smaller pieces if necessary. Heat the oil in a frying pan until very hot, almost smoking, then add the kale and sauté for less than a minute. Drain on paper towel.

Arrange the drained raw apple slices, shredded duck and kale in serving bowls. Dollop around some cucumber purée and drizzle over some of the juices from the pan. Serve immediately.

This is exactly the kind of thing we like to cook on our date-night evenings in. We love to spend an evening in the kitchen together, cooking up a plate of fancy food. This resulted in something that was both cosy and warming (and perfectly hygge) whilst still being light and clean-tasting thanks to the cucumber. We’ll definitely be making it again!

*This is a sponsored posts, however all opinions are my own as always!

Are you keen on eating local and seasonal food? How do you eat more ethically?

Recipe: Blackberry & Apple Crumble

Confession time: I’ve never been a fan of cooked fruit. Actually, I’m not really a huge fan of fruit in general, much preferring to get my five-a-day from vegetables. Despite my mum regularly making crumbles throughout my childhood, it’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve accepted anything other than a bowl of custard (yep, on it’s own). This year I was actively looking forward to Autumn and the hedges brimming with blackberries just waiting to be picked.

Now, this recipe is perhaps a bit more faff than a standard crumble recipe. I used to just chop the fruit, throw it into a dish with a spot of sugar (and perhaps a dash of slow gin). Rub together butter, sugar and flour, heap on top of the fruit mixture and bake. Simple, took about five minutes and the results were good. This, however, takes it one step further. The fruit is stewed beforehand, lightly so it doesn’t turn to mush, but enough so that all the flavours come together that little bit more. The topping is pre-baked, so there’s whilst there’s a bit of comforting stodge, it’s not leaning towards the glue-y raw flour end that I was always coasting before. It’s still super-easy, it still is pretty quick to put together. It’s our go-to Sunday evening treat right now. Served with a generous helping of fridge-cold cream, eaten wrapped in a blanket in front of a film. You can’t get more hygge than that!

Recipe – serves 2

  • 120g plain flour
  • 60g golden caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 90g unsalted butter at fridge temperature, cut into pieces
  • 300g cooking apple (usually one large Braeburn), peeled and cored
  • 30g brown sugar
  • a large handful of blackberries
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • cream, to serve

Tip the flour, caster sugar and ginger into a large bowl. Add 60g of the butter, then rub into the flour until the mix resembles. Sprinkle the mixture in an even layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes at roughly 200C, or until lightly golden and smelling gorgeous.

Meanwhile prep the fruit. Pop the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan and melt together over a medium heat. Cook for 3 mins until the mixture turns to a light caramel. Chop the apples into roughly 2cm dice, then add to the caramel and cook for 3 minutes. Add the blackberries and cinnamon, and cook for a couple more minutes. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and leave to stand.

When ready to serve, spoon the fruit into an ovenproof dish, top with the crumble mix, then bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes, or until hot and bubbling. Serve with cream (or vanilla ice cream!).

And now here’s a disclaimer – I actually put W on crumble-duty the vast majority of the time. It’s just so much yummier when someone has cooked it for you – and he makes far less of a mess (hence why I finally managed to photograph these!).

Are you a fan of fruit crumbles? What’s your favourite fruit combo?

Recipe: Simple Fennel Pasta

Like many households, I’m sure, pasta is our go-to meal. When we don’t know what to cook, you can bet it will end up involving pasta. Whether it’s my tomato-free bolognese, a decadent carbonara or gut-lining mac’n’cheese, we love the carby-comfort food hit.

 photo Fennel Pasta_zps5mdlg1mw.jpgRecently, though, we’ve been trying to experiment a bit more. When we say “oh, we’ll have pasta” we try to pick out a new recipe, try a new combination. Even, as in this recipe, to try something new with an ingredient we rarely use.

Fennel is something I’m a bit scared of, to tell the truth. I have never liked aniseed, going as far as retching when the Liquorice Alsorts were bought out on family car journeys. It was a Dynamo Pizza (now sadly removed from the menu) that first got me eating fennel – the combination of just al-dente fennel with ham, mozzarella and pomegranate seeds was a delight. And so I agreed to try out this pasta dish. And a few additions later, we have a firm favourite…

 photo Fennel Pasta 2_zpsep5blspt.jpg photo Fennel Pasta 4_zpsbcftekk8.jpgRecipe (to serve 2)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra virgin olive oil to drizzle before serving
  • 1&1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 3 garlic cloves,crushed
  • 1 lemon, both the zest and the juice – if we have half a lemon hanging around in the fridge we’ll sometimes add extra too
  • 1 fennel bulb, finely sliced, fronds (the green flowery bits) reserved
  • 175g linguine
  • 1/3 pack parsley, chopped (I’m not a fan of parsley but it does work here)
  • Parmesan, or other similar hard cheese

Heat the oil in a frying pan cook the fennel seeds until they pop (about 90 seconds over a not-too-high heat). Add in the garlic and allow to cook for a minute or so, but don’t let it colour. Throw in the lemon zest and half the fennel, lower the heat and cook for 10-12 mins or until the fennel has softened – cook the pasta whilst you’re waiting.

Add the cooked pasta to the frying pan, along with a few tablespoons of pasta water (reserve a bit more, just in case). Toss together, along with the remaining raw fennel, parsley and lemon juice. Season well, then pile into bowls, topping with the fennel fronds, a drizzle of oil and a generous serving of parmesan. Perfect with a glass of chilled white wine!

 photo Fennel Pasta 1_zpskq3zsmbc.jpg photo Fennel Pasta 3_zpsdqxh2yaw.jpgWe found this was a gorgeously light pasta dish, yet still full of flavour. The contrasting textures of the pasta alongside the cooked and raw fennel added extra interest. All in all a rather yummy dish!

What’s your favourite pasta dish?