There are a variety of different reasons as to why I started this blog. One of these, that I perhaps hadn’t given enough credence to, was the role that it would play in pushing my cooking further and motivating me. The majority of the food that I cook is for myself, as Yolanda sticks to a specific diet due to her weight training, and it is very easy to fall into the trap of making the same things week in week out. In the few weeks since starting this blog I can already feel a positive change in my cooking habits whereby I am not just thinking about food that I could make, but actually making it. My previous post about the tuna, pasta and pesto dish is one example of this, and this is another.
Some people may be of the opinion that eating duck breast with a pearl barley risotto may be a little indulgent for a normal Monday night in. In the past I may have been of the same opinion, however this is what I found myself doing on earlier this week. I have been thinking about making this dish for a good few months now but had not found the right opportunity to do so. During last Friday’s weekly shop I decided to throw caution to the wind and made the decision to go for it and purchased the ingredients I wanted for this dish. I had clearly come to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with indulging oneself on a Monday night, or any night for that matter.
I’ve not cooked much duck previously and never used pearl barley until this point. I had however read recipes in books and seen people on TV using these ingredients and so I had an idea of what I wanted to do; and what I did is this. I started with the pearl barley for which I sweated down some onion in oil and butter before adding some garlic and then the pearl barley with the intention to slightly toast the pearl barley (an idea I got from Tom Kerridge). When I started to smell something coming from the barley I added a glass of white white and let that reduce down by about half. All I then had to do was to gradually add heated chicken stock in the same way that you would do with a standard risotto although this took a bit longer to cook, approximately 45 mins to 1 hour. During this time I also threw in some thyme leaves to add some additional depth to the flavour. This is pretty much the most labour intensive aspect of this dish, but it is in no way difficult. Shortly before serving up I then added some grated parmesan to give that unctuous risotto texture and also some lemon juice to freshen the whole thing up.
Whilst you are tending to the barley you can prepare the duck which is very straight forward. I pre-heated the oven to 200C and scored the skin of the duck before sprinkling with sea salt, that was the extend of the prep. When it came to cooking I put some oil in a pan over a high heat before adding a couple cloves of crushed garlic and a couple sprigs of thyme, the thinking behind this was to season the oil in some way. I then added the duck skin side down and let that cook for about 4-5 minutes until the skin was nice and crisp. I then flipped it over and browned off the other side of the duck before transferring to a baking tray where I placed the duck skin side up on top of the garlic and thyme that was in the frying pan, I then poured over most of the fat from the pan. I left the duck to cook in the oven for no more than another 10 minutes whilst I cooked the kale. For the kale I added a knob of butter in the pan that the duck was cooked in before adding the kale and quickly coating all of the greens with the hot butter. I then added some water and lemon juice to the pan which not only helped add flavour to the kale and create steam to help it cook but also cooled the pan to stop the kale from burning.
Plating up was very simple and straightforward with the pearl barley on one side of the plate and the kale on the other with the sliced duck on top, I then drizzled over some rapeseed oil. Overall I was very pleased with how this dish turned out with the pearl barley having a nice consistency, which still had a little bite to it, and I could taste the zingy wine and lemon along with the sweetness of the onion and earthy herbs. The duck was the right side of rare with it still being pink but not quacking and the skin was lovely and crisp with a slight smokiness. The kale added the necessary greenery to the dish and went well with the rest of the plate of food, it wasn’t the star of the show but certainly played an important supporting role. Overall it was not a ground breaking meal or haute cuisine but it was a really enjoyable plate of food that not only looked good on the plate but also tasted great. One thing I might do differently in the future is to use the kale or an alternate green veg to make a salsa, but that is not because this dish was lacking anything it is just an idea.