I was talking yesterday morning on the phone to one of the barristers we engage, and who is also a good friend – in fact, we’re going to see the infamous Dita Von Teese at her show The Art of the Teese this Friday night at the State Theatre! After discussing the cases we are currently working on, she wished me a happy Chinese New Year and asked how I was doing. She asked about how my fitness regime was going, and when I sprouted off my weekly list of Zumba, HIIT and Boxing classes, she said that she needs to get back into it because she’s been indulging in too much KFC lately.
As much as I do enjoy the naughty nibble of chicken-salted chips and popcorn chicken (okay, Zinger burgers too), I can’t remember when the last time I had it was, and in any case I try and lock it firmly into the category of “once in a blue moon, naughty foods”. I asked her if she perhaps had tried having a wrap instead, with salad, and she jokingly asked what salad was. I know that a bowl of greens doesn’t appeal to a lot of people, but a salad doesn’t always have to be dull and boring! I’ve amped up green salads with nuggets of soft white cheese, figs and slices of sweet peach or crunchy nectarine, grilled vegetables to create texture, truffle-balsamic vinaigrette for a flavoursome difference, crushed in pieces of fried bread for a tasty fattoush salad.
The recent salad that has been making the weekly menu in my kitchen is this Duck and Pomegranate Salad adapted from an Adam Liaw recipe. I buy Luv-A-Duck’s pre-cooked duck breasts in hoisin sauce, which saves on some time – but also because my supermarket didn’t have raw duck breasts. It’s easy enough to cook if you can find raw ones, but the pre-cooked ones are more than fine, and I like to scoop out some of the cooking juices and sauce into the dressing to create a more caramelised flavour.
I’m also not a fan of cucumbers, as some of you know, but I do love pickles. So instead of using Lebanese cucumber in the original recipe, I sub in about half a cup of my homemade cucumber dill pickles. To make a basic pickle, begin the jar the day before you need them at the latest. Sterilise the jar, then mandoline as many baby cucumbers into thin slices that will fit into the jar. Layer the slices with an occasional sprig of fresh dill, and a couple of peppercorns. I fill the jar with about 1/4 to 1/3 white vinegar, then the rest with water. Seal tightly, then shake to mix and refrigerate. The next day, they will retain their vivid colour and have a slight tang, but I like to leave it for the week.
To serve four, you will need:
2 duck breasts;
1/2 red onion, peeled, halved and finely diced;
1 spring onion, finely sliced;
1/2 cup pickled cucumber slices, or five baby cucumbers, finely sliced;
2 cups loosely packed rocket leaves;
1 bunch watercress, picked and thick stalks discarded;
1 pomegranate, seeds only;
1 cup mint leaves;
1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds).
For the vinaigrette, you will need:
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce;
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar;
1 tablespoon lemon juice;
1 teaspoon soy sauce;
1/2 long red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped;
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper;
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil.
If cooking with raw duck breasts, place them skin-down in a cold frying pan and place the pan over low-medium heat for 10-12 minutes, until the fat is rendered and the skin is crisp and golden. Turn the breasts over and cook on the meat side for about 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and let rest for at least 5 minutes in a warm place, then season with salt and thinly slice when ready to serve.
Alternatively, prepare Luv-A-Duck Peking duck breasts as per the packet instructions.
For the hoisin vinaigrette, whisk the hoisin sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, chilli and pepper together, then gradually whisk in the olive oil. I like to spoon in some of the juices from the Luv-A-Duck sauce as it adds some extra meatiness. Set to one side.
Combine the onion, cucumber, rocket, watercress, pomegranate, pepitas and mint in a large bowl and toss well. An easy way to remove pomegranate seeds is to slice the bulb in half horizontally, then holding it cut-side down, bash the top firmly with a wooden spoon to loosen the jeweled seeds from the shell. Beware of the juice! It’s very good for stress relief 😉
Toss some of the dressing through the salad and divide among the plates. I’ve done it in two bowls as pictured above, as we eat half of this for dinner and the other half is for the next day’s lunches 🙂 Place the duck on top and drizzle with a little more dressing.