I must say that I am loving these foodie challenges that some companies are issuing. It is really forcing me to think about creating new and exciting recipes and I am finding that I am really thoroughly enjoying the developing, creating and testing of my thought processes. With fabulous products to use there is little doubt that one can be very creative in the kitchen.
I first became aware of Verlaque products last year when I was shopping at Woolworths and two little free sample sachets were popped into my shopping bags. One was Persian-Pomegranate Balsamic Reduction and the other was Mango & Chilli Balsamic Reduction. Although I loved the taste of them I had absolutely no idea of what to do with them other than use them as salad dressings.
Early this year when I was organizing sponsorship for the first SA Food Bloggers Conference I came across this amazing lady on facebook, Adrienne Verlaque Napper, and she generously provided me with more than enough products to fit into all the goodie bags for the delegates. I loved her passion for her products and her belief that they are top quality. And they are. She and her husband Neil have build up a wonderful business and they are extending their range of products all the time. They are also exporting and Adrienne was invited to show their exciting range at FHA2010 in Singapore – Asia’s largest food and hospitality trade fair. The company is well represented in the social networking fields of facebook and twitter, they are blogging and they put themselves out there, drinking in all the information that they can find. I like that too. They are well connected with the foodie in the street and are excited to be finding out what we want!! I LOVE THAT! The company logo says “Life is for Tasting” and they are living examples of that!
When I saw on facebook that Verlaque had issued a recipe challenge to foodies & bloggers to come up with an exciting and innovative recipe…or three……using their products I knew immediately what I wanted to do…..a dish using an ingredient that found itself on my foodie bucket list…..the dreaded DUCK BREAST!!! So I waltzed into the first store only to find……..no duck breasts!! Next day I organised to use the car and went further afield…..you guessed it….NO DUCK BREASTS! I was in despair and started thinking I might have to go to plan B which would’ve been salmon or trout. But I WANTED to do the duck breasts. It became a case of now or never so once again I borrowed the car and hit Cavendish Wooworths store at a run on Tuesday. There in the corner on the top shelf of the fridge, next to the chicken, hid my elusive pack of duck breasts. I think I might have kissed them…in my excitement at finding them I cannot remember. I raced around the food market and did the rest of my shopping and then returned home with my treasured duck package. Early yesterday morning I started working with my recipe. I took down my range of Verlaque bottles (which seem to have grown lately LOL) and my mind started working on flavours and what spices or fruit would go with the duck. I know that duck tends to be rather a rich meat and I also know that tart sweetish flavours go well with it. I have eaten it a few times but never worked with it before. I was thinking something with berries so I rummaged through the freezer and discovered a package of blackberries from the summer season. Berries freeze well and I stockpile what I can during the season so that I can have them for my smoothies during the winter months. Just freeze them open in one layer and once frozen pop them into a plastic bag and seal. That way they dont stick together in the bag neither do they become mushy (My secret tip of the week for you guys out there…)
So then…this is what I came up with for my first duck breast experience……
Duck Breast with Blackberry Chutney and Roasted Figs
VERLAQUED DUCK BREAST WITH BLACKBERRY CHUTNEY & ROASTED FIGS
(recipe developed and tested by browniegirl)
Time required: About 30 minutes
2 Boneless Duck Breasts – skin on
Maldon Salt & Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
Verlaque Pomegranate Concentrate
2 Black Figs – cut in half and tossed in a bit of olive oil
For the Chutney (can be made ahead if you like and kept in the fridge for a day or two)
1Red onion – peeled and chopped
2 Firm Pears – peeled and chopped (apple will also work)100g Fresh Blackberries (or frozen if not in season)
10ml rendered duck fat
1Garlic Clove – finely grated or chopped
2cm piece of fresh Ginger – peeled and grated
45ml Verlaque Turkish Fig Balsamic Reduction
60ml Runny honey
1 Mandarin – finely grated zest and juice
Few sprigs of Thyme – just the leaves picked off
½ Red Chilli – deseeded and finely chopped
2 Star Anise
2 Cardamom Pods – bashed and just the black seeds used
Maldon Sea Salt Flakes and Cracked Black Peppercorns
10ml Verlaque Pomegranate Concentrate
Preheat oven to 200oC
Wash and pat the duck breasts dry. Using a small sharp knife score the skin and fat only in a diamond pattern. Season with some Maldon Sea Salt flakes
Place the duck, skin side down, onto a cold non stick frying pan over medium heat. Saute without turning until you see the edges of the skin and fat starting to turn brown. Grind over a bit of black pepper then flip the breasts over onto the other sides. Drain off the duck fat that has rendered.
Brush the skin with some Pomegranate Concentrate then place the pan with the breasts in the oven for approximately 8-9 minutes. This will give you a medium cooked duck breast. If you want it medium rare then give it about 6-7 minutes
Remove from oven and tent with some foil then set aside for about 10 minutes to rest
In the meantime make the chutney as follows:
Sauté the onions in a bit of the duck fat until translucent – about 3minutes
Add the grated garlic, chilli, ginger, thyme and pears and stir fry another minute or so.
Stir in the balsamic reduction, pomegranate concentrate, spices, mandarin zest & juice, some seasoning to taste and honey.
Add the blackberries with a bit of water then lower heat, cover and simmer until the liquid has reduced and the chutney has thickened about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Set aside to cool a bit before using with the duck breast.
To make the roasted figs
Heat a ridged skillet or frying pan over a high heat until hot
Toss the halved figs in a bit of olive oil, season then saute briefly on both sides
Slice the rested duck breasts on the diagonal into 1cm thick medallions then fan them out on your serving plates. Spoon over a bit of the still warm chutney and place 2 fig halves on each plate.
I served my dish with a cinnamon pumpkin and parsnip puree and flash fried garlicky baby spinach.
This dish was absolutely delicious. The tart but sweet fruity flavours complimented the richness of the duck perfectly, the textures were good, the duck was done to perfection. Sweet daughter must have smelt the aromas because she arrived as I was plating and getting ready to photograph. So she stayed and shared my sumptious midday meal and we washed it down with a glass of JC Le Roux Le Vallee Rose bubbly…a stunning meal fit for two princesses taking a hiatus in the middle of a busy day! Well she was actually coming to collect her Le Creuset casserole that she had won last week in a cooking competition. Im so proud of her…a chip off the old blockess after all I will have to ask her if I can blog her winning Tiramisu for you lot……
I am so glad that I finally broke the duck breast spell and discovered that they are pretty darn easy to prepare if you know how. Just do what the experts say and you will do great. They are fairly expensive at around R70 for two good sized duck breasts but so so worth it. This would be delicious with pork fillet as well.
Next Verlaque Challenge recipe to follow tomorrow morning….yes, there were two duck breasts in the pack and I only used one as I had different plans for the other one