Five-spice duck breast fillet stir fried with oyster sauce, aubergines and mushrooms, the kind of brilliant recipe that is quick and easy but makes a fine and impressive dish.
Easy to impress
Five spice duck, served with or without rice, is one of those genius dishes that even someone who can't cook terribly well can manage.
It's an excellent idea for a special occasion: the two of you, the first dinner at home together and you have recklessly offered to be the chef. With this recipe your skin (and heart) is saved because you can't go wrong, even on Valentine's Day.
It’s John Torode’s recipe from the Good Food TV Channel, a brilliant platform sadly long since defunct.
The recipe was first discovered a long time ago by The Weather Man with an intention to cook a surprise meal for me.
Before you jump to conclusions, he still does it regularly every couple of months. And though he is an accomplished cook now, back then he was a little less so - therefore the duck result was very impressive.
Duck in a stir fry?
Duck is of course a common enough ingredient in Asian cooking, including stir fries.
Chopped into strips, it can be tackled in exactly the same way as beef. Beef rather than chicken since it tastes better when cooked lightly so it should go into the wok first, briefly, only to be removed to make space for vegetables and aromatics, and returned to the wok at the very end of cooking. That way it will retain some pinkness and juiciness.
Magret de duck
But if you’re cooking magret de canard, a relatively pricey duck breast from a corn-fed duck, it would be a waste to chop it up before cooking as that delicacy should be cooked whole, like a steak.
It is customarily cooked in a skillet, skin side down, slowly over medium heat so the fat renders down to leave just a crisp skin, and the duck at a medium-rare perfection.
And the recipe below is the golden middle: Asian flavours in stir fried vegetables to garnish beautifully cooked and sliced duck breast.
How to cook duck breast perfectly
The flavours don’t start with the stir fry: after all it is a five spice duck. One fillet will usually feed two people, especially if plain rice is served on the side with the dish.
The skin on the fillet needs to be scored to help render the fat, but make sure not to cut through to the meat or it’ll cook too much too quickly. Rub the skin generously with salt and lavishly with five spices.
I usually use the wok for the whole process, both to sear the duck and then to stir fry the vegetables. But a frying pan will be just as serviceable if you don’t like woks or don’t have one.
Whatever the pan, place the duck in the cold one. This is not about rapidly searing and browning but rather a gradual and gentle fat melting.
Place the pan over low heat, weigh the fillet down with another, small skillet or a steak weight and after 3-4 minutes it should start to gently sputter and sizzle. That’s the indicator for the correct temperature: if nothing happens, turn it up and if it frizzles and spits fat around – it’s far too hot.
If there is suddenly a lot of fat in the pan and the duck is swimming in it, drain it into a bowl for your next roast potatoes.
After 15 minutes the skin should be crisp and internal temperature should have reached 52C (125F). That’s when you crank up the heat, flip the duck and give it a minute or two on the other side, for medium rare. Off it goes to a warm place to rest, while you cook the vegetables.
Stir fry for five spice duck
The basic ingredients are aubergine, mushrooms and tomatoes, and the aromatics are ginger, fresh chilli and spring onions. Plus a peach or nectarine to serve on the side, because duck goes beautifully with fruit.
The vegetables should be chunky: start with the aubergine and take your time browning it thoroughly. Then the aromatics can be added as well as the other stir fry ingredients, finishing with oyster sauce and the resting juices from the duck.
Slice the duck not too thickly and arrange on mounds of vegetables, with a sprinkling of chopped peanuts and coriander.
More duck breast recipes
Oven roasted duck breast fillet with chilli flavoured pineapple slices, charred on the griddle. Served on a pile of green lettuce, it’s an outstanding warm salad dish.
Sweet and sour duck stir fry with pineapple and red peppers, topped with duck scratchings. Skinless duck breast is used in the stir fry and the skin makes crispy topping.
Blueberry duck is an oven-roasted duck breast fillet with blueberry sauce flavoured with a hint of rosemary. It's the nicest and the simplest blueberry sauce for duck.