No, I will not be featuring a grouse recipe here, despite the recent arrival of another Glorious Twelfth.
I do not hate grouse. If I’m served it once or twice a year, I’ll tuck in. I’m not anti-shooting so long as the birds shot are to be eaten – later in the year, prepare for pheasant – but grouse is elitist beyond measure, and its flavour
is overrated to boot. It’s fine if cooked well, but usually it isn’t, and those who
become frothy-mouthed at its trumpeting are those who are likely to enjoy it hung for so long the flesh is practically rotting. I can’t imagine we have all that many aristocratic readers of these pages anyway.
Duck, on the other hand, was democratised however long ago. It still requires a careful eye in the kitchen. It isn’t easy to cook. But here is a bird of
which we have plenty, and which is ideal when considering autumn eating, which I think we’re probably all starting to do now. Even if not, the recipe this week is light enough to enjoy in the sunshine, maybe with a dry riesling or a chilled pinot noir.
Now the Edinburgh Fringe is well under way, another linchpin of August – and, of course, another harbinger of controversy (this year thanks to the
comedian Jerry Sadowitz, who apparently showed a member of the audience his penis) – I thought the best place to find duck would be the Scottish capital.
And so to The Little Chartroom we return. There, in Leith, chef-owner Roberta Hall-McCarron is fulfilling her ambitions, having moved her
blossoming, ever-popular restaurant to a larger premises. You’d be hard-pressed to get a reservation this month. Next? Possibly.
For now, try this recipe for a smoked duck and beetroot salad. It’s among the trickier of the home-cooking sphere in that it is quite French by design, but it’s worth trying, and while long in process, it’s not too arduous in technique.
SMOKED DUCK AND BEETROOT SALAD
2 duck breasts
200g golden beetroot
200g candy beetroot
500g red beetroot
125g dark soft brown sugar
500ml beetroot juice
145ml white wine vinegar
20ml olive oil
Pinch of salt
100g tardivo radicchio
100g castelfranco radicchio
600ml sunflower oil (for frying the quinoa)
15g red mustard frills
Pan-fry the breasts, placing them skin side down in a cold, dry pan – place on to a medium heat allowing the fat to render down slowly, cook for approx 5 minutes, until golden brown and then flip on to the other side and cook for approx 2-3 minutes, allow to rest.
There are a couple of different methods that can be used to smoke the duck breasts – ignite smoking chips and place them into either a metal bowl with a metal colander on top, or into a smoking tube and then place the tube
into a heatproof tray.
Lay the breasts in the colander and cover the bowl and colander with tinfoil, so that the smoke can’t escape, leave to smoke for 15 minutes. Alternatively, lay the breasts next to the smoking tube in the tray – but not touching the tube. Cover the tray with tin foil and leave for 15 minutes.
Place the golden and candy beetroots in a pot with cold water, season with fine salt and bring up to a simmer. Cook until there’s no resistance when spiked.
Allow to cool slightly, then scrape the skin off. Cut into approx 3cm pieces.
Reduce the beetroot juice down until it reaches a syrup-like consistency. Allow to cool and whisk in the olive oil, sherry vinegar and seasoning – adjust to taste.
Blend 600g of the raspberries, pass through a fine sieve and spread a thin layer on to a sheet of greaseproof paper, dry out in a low oven (50-70C) for approx 1-2 hours checking regularly or dry out at room temp (this will take a
few days). When dry, blend to a fine powder.
Peel and grate the red beetroot, mix in 125ml of white wine vinegar and the dark soft brown sugar.
Cook in a pot on a medium heat until all the liquid has reduced to a syrup
consistency, and is coating the beetroot. Season to taste.
Boil the quinoa in salted water until completely cooked. Strain through a
sieve and run under cold water for approx 10 minutes to wash all the starch off. Drain and spread on to greaseproof paper and place on a tray, and put in a dehydrator for approx 5 hours – checking frequently – there needs to be a small amount of moisture left. Drying can also be obtained by leaving it out at room temperature – this will take a few days.
Organise yourself with two pots that are roughly the same size – medium, but quite deep, pour the oil into one pot and heat to 210C. Carefully drop the quinoa into the oil – it will only take a few seconds for it to puff up – don’t leave it for too long as it will burn. Pass through a sieve into the second pot,
allow to drain and then transfer on to a paper towel, season with fine salt.
Cut the tardivo and castelfranco into appropriate-sized pieces.
Cut the remaining raspberries in half. Peel, segment and cut the oranges into a small dice.
Place the bitter leaves, beetroot, and raspberries into a bowl. Generously dress with the beetroot dressing.
Slice the duck breasts into 1.5cm slices.
Build the salad, placing the beetroots, and beetroot relish first, adding in bitter leaves, raspberries, orange and duck. Finishing with more leaves and
fruit on top, mustard frills and crispy quinoa.
Using a small sieve, dust the raspberry powder over the salad and a little on to the plate.