Duck is one of my favourite things in the whole world. But only if the skin is crisp and salty. Flabby, chewy, greasy flesh gives me the creeps. The salting process helps to keep the flesh moist and leads to the perfect skin.
And when it comes to vegetables, Jerusalem artichokes (or sunchokes as they seem to be called elsewhere) are pretty close to being my favourites as well. They bring back memories of my grandmother’s infamous “Fartichoke Soup” that was so hazardous that every window in the house had to be opened.
I thought about creating an artichoke risotto to accompany the salted duck. But, in light of the warm weather, a hearty salad balancing the sweet, sour and earthy flavours that work so well with duck seemed like a more seasonal option.
1 duck breast 2 table spoons of salt 5 Jerusalem artichokes Salad leaves Half a grapefruit Olive oil Pepper Parmesan
Make a brine by dissolving the salt in boiling water. Once the water is clear take off the heat and allow to cool. Then once at room temperature place the duck breast in the water and weigh down with a plate. Place in the fridge overnight.
On the evening of your feast, peel the artichokes and boil in well salted water until par cooked which will take 10 minutes or so. Remove and pat dry with paper towel. Then roast in a preheated oven in a trickle of olive oil for 20 minutes. Everywhereelsethat I have read (apart from Corrigan) has foregone the pre-boil (and you may want to as well), but I found that it created one of my most successful vegetable dishes ever so I'd suggest it's worth the effort.
Gently render the duck breast in a cast iron frying pan allowing the fat to release. It helps if you’ve scored the skin. Gently turn up the heat and as the amount of fat rendering increases pour this over the artichokes. Once the skin is brown turn the breasts skin side up and pop in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove along with the artichokes and allow everything to rest.
Whilst everything is recovering from being blasted in the oven assemble your salad. Remove the flesh from half a grapefruit and squeeze the juice left in the hemisphere into a glass. You should get a dessert spoon’s worth. Add olive oil to the juice to make a very fresh dressing. Depending on how sharp the grapefruit is you may need a pinch of sugar. Coat the salad in the dressing and add segments of grapefruit along with parmesan shavings. If you’ve got time it might be worth caramelising the fruit for some extra flavour. To do this sprinkle with sugar and place under the grill for a few minutes.
Cut the duck on an angle and arrange the salad. It’s worth keeping the artichokes away from the salad leaves a bit because they will still be quite warm. Season with black pepper and tuck in.
The duck was succulent and blessed with crispy skin. But the stars of the show were the artichokes which were gloriously soft on the inside and perfectly crispy on the outside. They couldn’t have tasted any more of artichoke and brought out the earthy sweetness of the duck. And the grapefruit simply adds a sharpness that brushes any hint of grease to one side.
We still love to go on trips around the UK, staying in BnBs or camping in search of a good meal or two - hence, Around Britain with a Paunch. Quite often the trips have been prompted by Diana Henry's Gastro Pub Cookbook. Here's where we've been to: