Chinese make-away

 As you are aware from my recent post,one of my guilty pleasures stemming from my childhood is a love of Chinese food.For years I thought crispy duck with pancakes was the world’s greatest dish.So having got sesame prawn toasts out of my system I move on to something more challenging.
 Peking duck is a famous, centuries-old dish hailing from Beijing. Whole ducks are roasted in wood-fired ovens, rendering out fat and leaving behind perfectly crisp skin. Thin shavings of the crispy skin and meat are skillfully carved from the duck and served with Mandarin pancakes, along with a variety of condiments, including hoisin sauce, scallions, and julienned cucumber. Each person can wrap their own portion and enjoy it the way they like at their own speed.
Away from the hustle, bustle and hurly burly of a Chinese restaurant the most thrilling thing about crispy duck was the impossibility of ever making it myself. Everyone knew that it required a process of salting, boiling, rubbing, drying, roasting, and glazing so fiendishly complex that Confucius himself would have balked and ordered a takeaway.
 So it is with some trepidation that I post this  recipe for a makeover on a take away,may I call it a "makeaway". Not because it is too difficult for the novice cook, but precisely because it isn’t. Of course this isn’t the authentic method. It wouldn´t be with me would it? What you produce with this recipe will be subtly different from what a restaurant might serve (the pancakes will take on a lightly toasted colour for example). But it doesn’t take days, the duck will come out just as you like it and it will cost you about a quarter of the amount you would pay in a restaurant. 
 I am already planning on including julienned cantaloupe next time. Cantaloupe in particular may sound strange, but I think it would make a refreshing and delicious partner to the duck!If anyone has tried it,let me know.
Crispy duck and pancakes
The salting of the duck can be done the night before or a few hours before cooking. The duck can also be cooked ahead of time and re-heated to serve with the pancakes.

Prep time: 20 minutes plus overnight salting
Cooking time: 1 ½ to 2 hours

Serves 4
4 duck legs
1 tsp five-spice powder
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
1 tsp salt
A drizzle of honey
200ml chicken stock

For the pancakes
150g plain flour
100ml boiling water
1 tbsp sesame oil
A pinch of salt

To serve
Cucumber sticks
Spring onions, sliced
Hoisin sauce

1 To salt the duck, prick the skin of the legs all over with the tip of a sharp knife or fork. Mix together the salt, 5-spice and crushed peppercorns. Rub the dry mix all over the duck legs and allow them to sit in the fridge overnight or for a few hours before cooking.
2 Preheat the oven 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Pat the duck legs dry with some kitchen roll. Place them skin-side down in a frying pan in which they will all fit comfortably. Place the pan over a high heat. After about 5 minutes the skin will start to crisp and brown. Make sure that the legs are well browned before turning them over to cook the other side.
3 Transfer the legs to an ovenproof dish. (Any reserved duck fat can be used for potatoes at a later date). Drizzle the skin with a little honey and add the chicken stock to the dish. Put in the hot oven for about 20 minutes before dropping the temperature down to 140C/275F/gas mark 1 for another hour or until the meat falls away from the bone of the duck leg.
4 While the duck is cooking, start to make the pancake dough. Tip the flour into a large bowl and add the hot water and sesame oil. Sprinkle with a little salt and bring the mix together with a palate knife or spatula. Knead the mix with your hands for about 10 minutes until you have a smooth dough. Leave to rest for at least 30 minutes.
5 When the duck is ready, allow the duck leg to cool slightly before shredding the meat from the bone with two forks.
6 It is now time to roll out and cook your pancakes. Separate the dough into several pieces the size of golfballs. Roll out each ball as thinly as possibly on a lightly floured surface. The pancakes don’t have to be perfectly round or uniform in any way – they should just be as thin as possible and be able to fit in the pan you are going to cook them in.
7 Heat a nonstick frying pan over a medium heat until hot and lower your pancake into the pan. You could stretch them with your fingers before placing in the pan.
8 Cook for about a minute on either side until slightly browned in places and transfer to a serving dish. Repeat with the rest of the dough mix.
9 Serve the shredded duck with the pancakes, cucumber sticks, spring onions and hoisin sauce.
Home made Hoisin sauce
To complete the make away process here is a recipe for a homemade hoisin sauce. Once you´ve tried it and you will never want to use a commercial brand ever again. This is a flexible recipe that you can customize based on the ingredients you have to hand.
Why would you ever want to make hoisin sauce at home when you can easily get it online store or any Asian market I hear you say? Well the answer is that it tastes a hundred times better.End of.  It never occurred to me that someone might want to make hoisin sauce at home, until I experienced first hand that it can be be pretty expensive to purchase, depending on where you are. Plus, it doesn’t make sense to buy a big bottle of it when you just need a tablespoon for a special recipe.

1/4 cup light soy sauce
2 tablespoons natural home made peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 clove garlic , grated
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon miso paste (OR 1/2 teaspoon spicy fermented bean paste, OR 1/2 teaspoon gochujang + 1/4 teaspoon five spice powder, OR 1 teaspoon Thai chili sauce + 1/4 teaspoon five spice powder

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.Store in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to a month.


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