Asian, Tasting

A slightly healthy duck and lychee salad


If you saw my post ‘How to Succeed in 2012’, I committed to a massive weight loss target of 1kg in 12 months. That’s 83 grams a month.

I lied, ever so slightly. I’m sorry. It’s a protection thing. But after one week of managing to stick to the regime, I am prepared to tell the truth.

The truth is I am trying to lose four kilos by the end of January. I know, I know, why would a finely calibrated athlete like myself need to lose weight? Well, at my regular health check up, the nutritionist pointed out that my weight, for my height, was bordering on overweight. Stunned, I responded by saying that muscle is heavier than fat and that you can’t use the normal rules for a seasoned athlete. She didn’t say a word or bat an eyelid, but the corner of her mouth on one side ever so slightly curled up. I skulked away, head bowed, with my tail (or fatty pork sausage) between my legs.

So I put myself and my wife (took a fair bit of persuasion) on a low carb, very low fat, low fruit, little or no alcohol, high protein, all-you-can-eat vegetable, no fun diet. One day a week though, my wife and will relax the regime. I just don’t have the will power to do it seven days a week. Or six. Or five for that matter.

We won’t let it go completely on our day off (although we’re already on to our second bottle of wine as I type). But it does mean that recipe posts will have a slightly healthier bent to them for the next month. I apologise in advance to butter loving Francophiles.

Health, tasty and enjoyable?

When I think healthy, the obvious cuisine choice is Asian. Fresh ingredients, loads of greens and low fat are the norm.

I came across a Roast Duck and Lychee salad from Neil Perry’s fantastic Balance and Harmony cookbook.

As the title suggests, it calls for a roast duck, either bought or roasted at home after poaching in a master stock. Instead, I used duck breast I had in the freezer.

I fried the breast (with no oil in the pan, you don’t need it because it is so fatty) and once done I let it rest. After 15 minutes or so, I sliced the breast.

I made the dressing, starting with hoisin sauce and vinegar. The recipe calls for Chinkiang vinegar, which is a type of rice vinegar. I used black rice vinegar. It’s sweet and I have used it before in dipping sauces. To that I added a pinch of sugar and light soy sauce. I halved the dressing ingredients (so often I find there’s too much dressing or sauce in recipes, so much that the final dish is swimming in it).

Then I chopped the ginger, spring onions (scallions) coriander, deseeded and halved the lychees, chopped a chilli (not in the recipe but I like the kick) and put them together in a bowl with sliced duck breast. Instead of deep-frying the peanuts, I dry roasted a handful of cashews and crushed them slightly. I did fry the garlic though. Feeling guilty, I hung the golden brown garlic on a clothes line and used my wife’s hair dryer (ten minutes on the frizzy setting) to dry them out. As a garnish, they need to look a million dollars you know.

Then I stirred the dressing through the chopped ingredients in the bowl and served on a plate. I garnished with a bit more coriander, roasted sesame seeds, fried garlic and the cashew nuts.

The taste test

I find duck a little rich normally, but this recipe – with the juicy, sweet lychees, the zesty ginger and coriander – more than offset the fattiness of the duck. In fact the go together perfectly, making the dish feel light and very summery, not heavy or fatty at all.

It’s a simple, stunning recipe and takes a relaxing, slow moving hour to prepare. With a bottle (or two) of crisp white wine to go with it, it’s a winner in my book. Well, a winner from Neil Perry’s book.

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