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?