Sweet and sour chunky duck stir fry with pineapple, colourful peppers and a topping of crispy duck skin scratchings. Homemade sweet and sour is miles and miles better than all the jars in the supermarkets.
One way to skin a chicken
I once witnessed a lady at the butcher’s buy chicken fillets and ask to have the skin removed.
My eyes popped and I must have given her a furtive once-over to detect some serious disability i.e., lack of limbs for instance. But no, she was perfectly healthy but apparently unable to take the skin off a chicken fillet.
Chicken FILLET. Not a whole bird. A fillet which basically has the skin attached to it by sheer will power and you can strip it off more deftly than a lady in Spearmint Rhino removes her garb.
I mean - seriously? This is the country where 30 million people obsessively watch cookery programmes. Where food images and videos reign on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook, effectively competing with porn.
Where people spend an hour a week poring over food websites and blogs. Where television chefs are instantly recognisable. Unlike, let’s say, politicians.
Brits can’t cook, won’t cook
But only one Brit in ten ever has a go at trying out a dish off the telly in their kitchens. And they don’t know how to skin a chicken fillet. That’s why the most frequent combination to ‘recipe’ when entered into Google search is the word ‘easy’.
The recipe below is not easy. You will need to remove the skin off the duck fillet. But who knows, you just might manage as there’s bound to be a YouTube demo somewhere.
The vegetables need slicing and you might struggle to find a sharp knife at home, leading you to decide to buy a pack of ready-sliced stir fry veg.
But if you do find that knife, pull that skin off the duck and heat up that wok, fearless of it being smoking hot - you’re in for a feast. Just like on the telly.
Marinate the duck
Once you have the skin off the duck fillets, the job is almost done. All joking aside now: it really is not a difficult dish to do well.
Salt that skin while you prepare the meat: salt will draw the moisture out a little bit, which is already a step towards getting it crisp.
Cut the duck fillets into bite-sized chunks and dunk them into marinade for as long as it will take you to prepare all the rest. The marinade is simple: brown sugar for the sweet, rice vinegar (black rice vinegar if you have it) for the sour, plus soy sauce because it’s an Asian dish, and a little cornflour to coat the meat.
Whilst you’re at it, mix the sauce ingredients as well: this time sweet and salty of brown sugar, soy and oyster sauce and some sesame oil to round up the flavour.
Chop the fruit and vegetables
The fruit is pineapple, and if you can’t get it fresh (but you know it will taste MUCH better with fresh), use tinned but omit the sugar from the sauce in that case.
Hack the skin off the pineapple, whichever way you usually do it, then cut it into wedges and into bite-sized chunks.
The remaining vegetables, peppers, courgettes and spring onions, should be chopped into pieces similar size – this is a chunky stir fry. Apart from ginger and garlic that is: those obviously need to be finely sliced.
How to make duck scratchings
This is the fun part: it’s deep frying but on a small scale so the usual downsides of the smell, the grease everywhere, the vats of oil to dispose of later, are absent.
All you need is about an inch of oil in a small pan so just about 250ml of it. While it heats up to 190C (or shimmering), pat the skin dry very well and chop it into small pieces, like lardons.
They will crispen quickly, in a minute or two. When golden and puffed up, drain them onto paper towels. The oil can be used for the stir fry – obviously, about 2 tablespoons of it.
The wok work
Now it’s an ordinary stir fry time: first the duck pieces, seared in a red-hot wok and removed, then the aromatics (watch out for Sichuan peppers, their fumes can knock you out!), and then gradually all the rest.
It will take a while because the pieces are chunky and we want the peppers to singe, the pineapple to caramelise and the spring onions to wilt.
When it’s all cooked through but crunchy, it’s time for the sauce to go in and for the duck to return. If you serve it with rice, now will be good to dish it out and spoon the fragrant stir-fry on top.
The final touch, the duck scratchings will get sprinkled all over the bowls or plates. That is, of course, unless you were sneakily reaching for one after another and there are none left…
More duck recipes
Five-spice duck breast fillet stir fried with oyster sauce, aubergines and mushrooms is the kind of brilliant recipe that is quick and easy but makes a fine dish.
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.
Duck with fruit is nothing new in the recipe world, but this is a little different: oven roasted duck fillets are served with blueberry sauce that you would be more used to seeing on porridge rather than meat.
More stir fry recipes
Chicken yu xiang, chicken breast pieces cooked in Sichuan ‘fragrant fish’ sauce which has seafood only in the name. With addition of dried cranberries for the sweetness and almonds for the crunch.
Easy recipe for sticky pork stir fry, with honey and soy sauce. This stir fry can be served with noodles or plain rice, and it’s a great weekday supper dish.
Scallops and asparagus stir fry. Use frozen queen scallops for this dish, they will come into their own anyway against the background of perfectly cooked aubergines and asparagus.