So, we now apparently have two more years of austerity ahead of us and even then, it may just get worse. A sure sign that things are bad is the number of restaurants struggling, even with the Christmas party season approaching. And yet, this week I read of two of the worst examples of restaurant rip-offs I have ever come across.

Firstly, the increasing number of London restaurants charging ‘cakeage’. In other words, if you have a birthday dinner with a bunch of friends or family and someone has organised a cake, the restaurant will charge you PER SLICE to eat it. This was bad enough, but when I read on that this ridiculous surcharge can be anything from £2 to more than £7, I was speechless.

Just days later, a woman at the new Cosmo restaurant in Croydon – the largest restaurant in Britain with 800 covers – was charged a buggy surcharge to bring her baby in. £3. Seriously. Staff refused to remove it from the bill and the restaurant claim that while perhaps it was bit stiff, they do have a surcharge for toddlers who come in but don’t eat.

The restaurant charging cakeage claim that they still have to pay staff to serve the cake and it increases the washing up. They also insist it’s only fair especially since people are less likely to order a dessert if a cake is on the table.

None of these lame excuses cuts any mustard. For too long children have been unwelcome in British restaurants and instead of a move towards a  more open, European attitude to family dining this is what we are now doing. As for the cakeage, if the party in question are having a cake, chances are it’s been a big boozy night and the restaurant will already have made at least £30 a head so they can probably take the hit of a few unordered creme brulees and half a dozen extra teaplates.

We’re lucky to have both an excellent neighbourhood Chinese restaurant (Ruby Palace, Clarkston) and, a relatively new fine dining place called Ian Brown’s Food & Drink. Mr Brown was head chef at the Ubiquitous Chip in Glasgow for many years and has made a fine stab at establishing a restaurant in an area which for too long has offered little for people fancying a night out but not fancying the £100 it ends up once you’ve taxied into the city and back.

His food strikes the balance between fancy and relaxed and little touches such as tap water on the tables and freebie tablet with coffee go a long with me and the many others forming an orderly line on the waiting list for a weekend table. Similarly, the Ruby Palace, which has been there for years, never bother charging for Chinese tea or extra rice.

So, if restaurants want to know why they are struggling so much, maybe it’s because we’re all watching out pennies and don’t want an extra tenner on every meal just because we had water and a second cup of coffee. Ditch all the extras and make it clear that customers can pop in for a bowl of pasta and glass of wine and not come out feeling they’ve been mugged.

I simply would refuse to take my custom to anywhere with such a ridiculous surcharges as cakeage and when I celebrate (or mourn) a big birthday next year I will be checking first before ordering the cake and booking the restaurant. In the meantime, if anyone wants to name and shame a restaurant where this has happened, I’d be delighted to hear from you.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s latest programme features the best of Scottish produce this week and how our national dishes can be influenced from other cultures. Since it’s St Andrew’s Day tomorrow, I thought I would do a Scottish pudding-cum-cocktail for this week’s recipe. It’s lighter than traditional cranachan and don’t be put off even if you hate whisky (as I do).

I recently attended a whisky tasting at the Whiski Rooms in Edinburgh (an excellent and reasonable Christmas gift for any whisky lover) and while it didn’t convert me, the very nice and knowledgable host did advise me on the best ones to use for this. Something light, not a big peaty number.

This can be a dessert or an after-dinner treat… so have your cake and eat it.

Cranachan shots

Serves six

4tbsp rolled oats and 2 of brown or light brown sugar

Punnet of raspberries

Tbsp icing sugar

3-4 tbsp whisky

Tbsp runny honey

Small carton of double cream

Have ready six large shot glasses, Turkish tea glasses or small wine glasses.

Leave six rasps to one side. Tip the others into a jug with the icing sugar and honey. Blitz with a blender and then pass through a sieve. If this sounds a bore, you don’t have to sieve it as long as you don’t mind a few seeds. Either way, then whisk in half the whisky. Pour into the bottom of the glasses, saving a little to drizzle later if you like.

Toast the oats and sugar under a grill for a few minutes. Remove and cool. Whisk the cream, the remaining whisky and most of the oats and sugar until soft peaks.

Place a rasp in each glass and add a spoonful of cream. It should just sit separate from the sauce. Sprinkle over the oats. Serve with small teaspoons for the top and the whisky and raspberry sauce at the bottom can be knocked back like a shot.


Nuts about Whole Foods

November 16, 2011

In a week filled with more economic doom and gloom it was with more than a degree of trepidation that I visited the new WholeFoods Market in Giffnock, Glasgow, on its first day. Just how is a shop, known for being extortionate because of the high quality of organic produce they are offering, going to survive in the middle of a recession?

Some of you may remember me writing something similar when Waitrose opened. It has indeed survived the first few months but it’s dead whenever I go in and the people who are there don’t appear to be buying very much. As much as I enjoy shopping there, more for convenience than anything else, it isn’t really offering much more than the other big supermarkets (the one exception being the deli). This week saw yet another report revealing the Scots are spending less on basic food items, but seem to still be indulging in treats from time to time. It was also reported that sales of organic (ie probably pricey) baby food were on the rise. Yet, newspapers also revealed the seasonal testing results of various chefs who were claiming budget buys of Christmas foods such as mince pies and smoked salmon were trouncing luxury brands in the test stakes. This seemed to suggest we’re all seeking out the cheapest possible produce at the moment, whether for Christmas or just day to day.

So which is it? Are we just eating less and still buying the things we like? Or are we swapping our Green & Blacks for a block of Scotbloc? I would love to think the answer lies in WholeFoods. I don’t mean everyone should start doing their weekly shop there but I was so blown away by everything about the store that I came away feeling that they may just change the way we all think about food and shopping. Before you step in to the store, the message is loud and clear – crates of squashes of every shape and colour were displayed outside. That makes you feel good. A few steps inside and an array of potatoes that will make a no-carb obsessive ditch the diet immediately.

The feel of the place is like an indoor farmer’s market. Anyone who has visited the fabulous Borough Market in London will feel at home instantly. As well as the amazing array of produce on offer, there are things for sale I’ve simply never seen in Scotland. Freshly churned nut butters (cashew, almond and peanut), flavoured salts, at least a dozen varieties of chilli, wine sold in refillable wine bottles and chocolate with pink peppercorns. The cheese counter looks like something you would see in France or Italy and I came home with a reasonably priced cheese from Holland – I chose it simply because I’ve really only ever seen Edam and Gouda on sale here. And this is the point about the company – you’ve simply never seen anything like it in Scotland. Add to that their commitment to local producers who supply a huge range from chocolate to shower gel , their involvement in community matters and pledges to reduce food waste (many store cupboard items can be bought loose in bags), what’s not to like?

Usually with a firm, it’s at this point where the bubble bursts and you that they are dreadful to work for. Well, the staff couldn’t be happier and sing the praises of the company and their bosses. Will this be enough to convince people to shop here? It will take a commitment in both time and money from people to make it work. And so it comes to the crunch – just how expensive is it? Pretty dear for a lot of things. But there were also many things I buy every week (whole chicken, oatcakes) that were no expensive than Waitrose or Sainsbury. I picked up a piece of fresh fish for about £3 and some lovely caramelised almonds for £2.99. I did shell out on the refillable wine bottle which will only be worth doing if the wine is very nice to drink (as yet it is unopened).

But a friend I bumped into at the store summed it up. He said it the store makes you realise just how manipulated and conned we have been by supermarkets who, for so long have told us we want it cheap, no matter the compromise on quality or ethics. Visiting a shop like this makes you want to rearrange your time just enough that you can find an extra hour in the week to seek out some really good food which is a joy to buy. That’s all it really takes. As someone else in the shop said, WholeFoods won’t survive from the odd customer popping in to buy a gift or from the very wealthy shopping for a whole dinner party – it’s the people who care about the food who will visit regularly and spend a few pounds that will keep the place going.

And so, eventually, to this week’s recipe. I first got hooked on salmon with Asian spice many, many years ago, not long after Stravaigin opened in Glasgow. There, I had a spiced salmon on satay noodles and I’ve loved the mix of the fish with the Asian flavours ever since.

I’m using two things I’d never seen before – freshly churned cashew butter and lemon scented salt flakes. It’s scarcely a recipe – just a nice plate of food that comes together when you have delicious things you enjoyed buying sitting in the kitchen. If you don’t have accesss to lemon salt, zest a lemon and grind it in a pestle & mortar with a teaspoon of salt flakes. If you don’t have cashew butter, tahini is not a bad substitute.

Lemon salt-crusted salmon with chilli greens and cashew dressing

Serves two

Two thick pieces of salmon, fillet or steaks

Lemon salt and pepper

A little oil

Whatever greens you fancy – broccoli, green beans, spring onion, kale are all good

Half a chopped chilli

Sesame oil 2tbsp

Cashew butter dressing – 2tbsp cashew butter, tbsp hot water, squeeze of lime, 2tbsp natural yogurt, salt and pepper

Sprinkle the salt and pepper on the salmon generously. Drizzle over a little oil – no more than a couple of tsps. Place in the oven, uncovered, for about 20mins at 170C.

Mix the cashew butter with the water to loosen it a little. Add the other ingredients and stir gently – don’t overwork or it becomes clay-like. Set aside.

Remove the salmon and cover with foil. Blanch your veggies for a couple of minutes and run under cold water. Heat a little oil in a pan and gently fry the chilli. Tip in the greens and cook until just charred. Drizzle with a little sesame oil. Serve the salmon with the greens and a dollop of the dressing.

Mellow yellow

October 25, 2011

Does anyone get their five-a-day without a struggle? It sounds easy enough when the health Nazis are telling you just to swap a Kit-Kat for a banana and include three veggies with your tea but the reality is most of us are probably kidding ourselves.

Apparently for salad to count, you have to have a cereal bowl-size portion – so counting the leaves in your Pret crayfish and rocket sandwich isn’t going to cut it. And the generous amount of lime in a G&T is only going a very small way to achieving the high five.

The best way I’ve found to have the best stab at it is to get two out of the way at breakfast. In our house we achieve this and more by making a home-made smoothie (see Hip, Hip Puree blog). However, as the berries become sparser, it’s a worry as to how we’re going to keep it up. I optimistically bought a mango today but, frankly, that’s a lot of work first thing in the morning, even using the hedgehog technique. I can sense Mr Scrumptious is dreading the day I start juicing a turnip.

A banana and a glass of orange is also a good start. A daily apple and two portions of veg (or one and a piece of fruit after) at dinner and there you have it. However, apparently even a veg-rich tomato pasta sauce only counts as one and you need to eat two tangerines for it to count as a full portion. So it’s easy to see how we all fall off the five-a-day track even without realising.

This week’s recipe does, however, give you two at the very least of vegetables in one main dish. I find it’s still to early to be dusting off the Le Creuset and making hearty wintry casseroles but my tastebuds also know I no longer want to eat salads and light, summery chicken and salmon dishes. The leaves outside are only just turning and there is still plenty of green to be seen in the garden. So, this is a mellow, autumnal dish – warming but not heavy and healthy but not a bore. The golden top, flecked with green even reflects the colours you see outside – when the leaves are a full burnished gold then it’s time for the goulash and game stews.

I’m not generally a member of the whole mustard/horseradish/wasabi fan club but like it here because it is cooked out to a smooth rounded flavour and adds a nice kick of colour. Any mustard will do as long it is not to vinegary. It will serve four as a main course, perhaps with a few boiled potatoes or six as a side dish with something like a piece of grilled cod. Leaving out the bacon, it can be a delicious vegetarian dish.

Leek, bacon and vegetable bake

One cauliflower, cut into florets

One pack tenderstem broccoli

Tbsp olive oil and tsp butter

One leek, finely chopped

One pack bacon or pancetta pieces (or two-to-three rashers chopped)

Tbsp plain flour

Pint of milk

6oz grated strong cheddar

Tbsp mustard

Couple of handfuls of spinach

Cook the cauli in plenty of boiling salted water for about four minutes before adding the broccoli. Cook for a further three minutes then rinse into a colander and run cold water over. Cover and set aside.

In a large pan (saute pan is ideal) sweat the leeks in the oil and butter for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent them catching. Add a little salt. The leeks should soften down but not be too tinged. Add the bacon and cook for another few minutes. Have the milk and cheese to hand. Add the flour to the leeks and bacon and stir in well. Add the milk gradually, stirring continuously and bring to the boil. You should have a thick sauce. Take off the heat and stir in the mustard and cheese and keep stirring until the cheese has melted.

Warm a large ovenproof dish and place the spinach on the bottom. Tumble in the vegetables and pour over the leek and bacon sauce, coating everything well. Add pepper and a little grated cheese to the top and brown under a hot grill.


Souper Duper

October 15, 2011

There is always a moment after returning from a great holiday when it suddenly hits you. It may be the rain lashing down outside and you think back to baking hot sunshine, or it could be the first dreadful canteen lunch you have at work and you find your mind cast back to the great food you’d enjoyed for a fortnight.

For me this week, it was sight of Halloween and Christmas treats in the first shop I entered. When I left a fortnight ago, it was barely October and the weather was promising to be good. There were reports of an extended berry season because of the odd summer we’ve had a ndwinter seemed a long time away.

The first thing to greet me in Waitrose today was the stand with their magazine. It appears to be the law that at this time of year, supermarket magazines must offer us new ways with baked potatoes for bonfire night or how to make bats out of ready-to-roll icing for Halloween cupcakes. And, of course, they will always contain a recipe for squash soup.

The squash family do make good soup, there’s no denying it. And you can add any roots you have lying around – carrots, parsnips and potatoes all work fine too. Squashes not only give a great texture but a lovely autumnal colour.

The world is divided into people who are good soup makers and those who aren’t. I fall into the latter camp so only make it if I have a good recipe. My very lovely friend Lana does not consider herself a confident cook but her butternut squash soup is my favourite and the recipe I offer up today. Likewise, my mother-in-law would not claim to be capable of anything flash in the kitchen but her ham soup, made with ribs, is legendary. Comforting, salty, filling and a great hangover cure.

My friend tells me it’s all about giving the veggie base a good slow turn around the pan before adding any stock. This may be where I come unstuck since it could be a lack of patience that sees me end up with watery, tasteless pots of soup.

So to Lana’s soup. She used to make it for me when we worked together and we would enjoy it over a blether on our breaks. It is rich, deeply satisfying but very healthy. I’m not a fan of creamy soups and there is only a dash in this one but squash gives any soup a great velvety texture. It’s a guddle to peel and chop a butternut squash but a heavy Chinese cleaver helps. When making this for the blog today I suddenly realised I was out of paprika, hence the chorizo addition at the end. Either way, it’s delicious.

Lana’s Butternut Squash Soup

Serves four, generously

One butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks roughly 2cm thick. You can also add some sweet potato or carrot – both improve the colour of the final soup

Two fat cloves of garlic, crushed

Good pinch of dried chilli flakes

Half a tsp of sweet paprika

2 tbsp grainy or Dijon mustard

About a pint of veg or chicken stock (you may need more depending on size of squash)

Salt and pepper

1-2 tbsp creme fraiche or cream

In a large pan with a lid, heat two tbsp of olive oil and gently fry the garlic and chilli. Add the squash and cook gently, turning occasionally until just soft around the edges and slightly tinged (about 10 minutes). Add the paprika and mustard and stir well in. Pour in the stock. The squash should be just covered with liquid. Bring to the boil, season and put the lid on. Simmer gently until the squash is soft. Allow to cool slightly and puree using a hand blender or liquidiser. Return to the heat and taste for seasoning. Add the creme fraiche or cream.

This is quite nice with a little crispy chorizo and a drizzle of the paprika oil from the pan. But it’s equally as nice (and vegetarian) without. In fact, if you ditch the creme fraiche, it’s probably fine for a vegan if made with veggie stock.

Risk it for a biscuit…?

September 17, 2011

Cleaning out my kitchen cupboards this week turned out to be quite an eye-opener, what with all the talk in the news of sell-by and use-by dates. How often do you risk it for a biscuit? And what is the cut-off point?

My sister refuses to buy a chicken unless it’s got at least three days to go after she has purchased it. However, a colleague’s attitude is, if it looks ok, it probably is and if it doesn’t, he’ll nuke it in the microwave. There are many times I would disregard dates on food – biscuits, most dried goods and cheese if it smells fine. It seems stupid to have any dates of fruit and veg since they generally let you know if they’re not worth eating. Most councils now have on their websites the chance for punters to check out their favourites restaurants and how they have performed in environmental checks. This can either be a reassuring experience or can mean you will never eat out again. We have a lovely old-fashioned neighbourhood Chinese and they had been marked down for ‘having celery in the fridge beyond its sell-by date’. Well, if the celery was in your fridge and looked OK, would you not just use it up? I would. It seems ridiculous to punish restaurants for not wasting edible food.

Clearly, sell-by/use-by/display-until dates all have their uses, especially when it comes to certain fresh produce such as meat and dairy. But as we all get skinter and skinter and are urged every other day not to waste food it is certainly a good time to revisit the system used. By not turning shoppers into robots about what to buy and when, people can think more for themselves about what to buy and when they want to eat it.

My cupboards were not too shameful, but only because I got a new kitchen three years ago. However, there were a few things with 2010 as the date and they were chucked out, not because I thought they would poison us but because they were probably on the stale side. Some things seem never to go off and will lie in a cupboard happily for  years. Camp Coffee is on one of them and a great store-cupboard ingredient. I’ve had my bottle for at least four years and use it about twice a year. Added to any chocolate icing or sauce and it gives a lovely sheen and mocha taste.

It was finding this bottle skulking behind the three bottles of soy sauce with different amounts in and a baffling jar of chocolate Nesquik that put marble cake into my mind. It’s one of my favourite cakes to make. There are two essentials – the cake mixtures must be on the stiff side or will merge too much and the chocolate part must be dark and bitter while the plain sponge should be rich with vanilla flavour. It is very easy to make and needs no adornment other than a nice cup of tea and a sit down.

Marble Cake

Preheat oven to 170C and grease and line a loaf tin (or the new silicone tins are great – no need to line and cakes come out perfect)

Have two bowls on the go. Place 4oz each of butter, flour and sugar in each bowl. Crack in two eggs to each bowl. Add 2oz ground almonds to one and 20z cocoa to the other. In the almond one, add 2tsp vanilla extract or bean paste and to the chocolate one 2tbsp Camp Coffee (or a small amount of instant espresso powder). Beat the vanilla mix with a hand-held whisk until everything is incorporated. It should be no thinner than mashed potato. Using the same beaters, do the same with the chocolate bowl.

Using two separate spoons, place alternate spoonfuls in the tin until all the mix is used up. It doesn’t need to be neat. Level gently and bake for 30-40minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tin.

Viva lasagne

September 2, 2011

It is a truth universally acknowledged that you can never find lasagne sheets to fit your dish. They will either be too short or too long so you end up snapping them as best you can to make them fit, often cutting yourself in the process with the shards of hard, dry pasta.

Lasagne is indeed generally a guddle to make and really only worthwhile now and again and for feeding more than four people. And sadly, it is now a much-maligned dish with people associating it with dreadful frozen or ready-meal versions or, a pub grub dish served swimming in raw-tasting tomato sauce and wobbly bechamel that looks more like wallpaper paste.

In his fantastic, if heavy, book, Gorgio Locatelli states that if you serve floppy lasagne to children in Italy, they cry because it is supposed to be a sturdy, meaty affair and not an insipid floating pasta mess. He rightly points out that if too much liquid is in the lasagne it will simply boil the pasta in the oven which is “completely contrary to the spirit”. You have to love Italy, where food has a spirit.

Despite it being a guddle to make, there are two great advantages to lasagne – it tastes delicious and is perfect to make in advance because it tastes better the following day and freezes perfectly. I usually make it to the assembled stage and either bake it after a day in the fridge or freeze it. All you need with it is a green salad and glass of wine.

One of the reasons many people are put off making lasagne is because it involves making a sauce. I don’t put loads of white sauce in mine, since I like to be able to see all the layers and don’t care for cheesy sauces anyway. But another great way to make it is not to bother with the bechamel and to just use a tub of ricotta instead, placing thin scoops on the lasagne where you would normally put the sauce. My Australian pal Mardi was a vegetarian when she stayed with me many years ago (I broke her eventually with a square sausage sandwich) and made a fantastic veggie lasagne using ricotta.

Recently I’ve been mincing my own rump steak to use for this lasagne dish but that is extravagant and mince will do perfectly well. The onions on the top are incredibly tasty and make a lasagne look far more interesting. The recipe is for a standard four-to-six portion lasagne dish.

Lasagne with roasted onion topping

500g beef mince

One onion, carrot and stick of celery all diced finely (in the processor is fine)

Three cloves of garlic, minced

Pinch of chilli flakes

Tbsp flour

Olive oil

One can of plum tomatoes

Beef, chicken or veg stock cube made up in the empty can of tomatoes ( you may not need it all)

Tsp of dried herbs (oregano or basil) or if you have fresh parsely, add it at the end to either the meat or white sauce.


For the white sauce (or use one large tub of ricotta)

Tbsp of butter

Tbsp flour

Pint of whole milk

40z grated cheese (cheddar or mixture of cheddar and parmesan)

Pinch nutmeg

Salt and pepper

One packet of dried lasagne sheets

Two large red onions

1 Brown the meat in a little olive olive in a large pan with a lid. Add a little more oil and add the carrot, onion, celery, garlic and chilli. Cook for about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle over the flour and add the tomatoes and half the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for an hour, with the lid on, stirring occasionally. If the mix looks like it is reducing too much (unlikely) add a little more stock.

2 Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour. Cook gently for about a minute and then whisk in the milk, a little at a time until it is all incorporated. Bring to the boil, whisking all the time. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper and cheese and whisk in off the heat. Pour into a jug and cover with cling film until ready to use.

3 Cover the bottom of your dish with a thin layer of the meat sauce. Place your lasagne sheets on top. Pour over some white sauce (or your ricotta) and press down lightly. Repeat for another two layers until you have a top one of white sauce. If you’re not eating straight away, allow to cool, covered with foil and then place in the fridge. Or you can freeze at this stage.

4 Preheat oven to 170C . Put the lasagne in the oven. Cut the red onions into thick half moons and separate into a large bowl. Drizzle over about a tablespoon of olive oil and, using clean hands, distribute the oil over all the onions. Do not add salt. After the lasagne has been in the oven for about 15 minutes, scatter the onions on top. After 20 minutes, check the lasagne. Turn over the onions and add some parmesan cheese if you like. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes.

5 Allow the lasagne to rest for at least five minutes before you serve it. It will retain the heat no problem. Serve with a green salad.


August 26, 2011

The news this week that coriander oil is now believe to be of great benefit in dealing with food bugs is good news, but not very surprising.

Plants were used for medicinal purposes long before recorded history. Ancient Chinese and Egyptian papyrus writings describe medicinal uses for plants. African and Native American cultures used herbs in healing rituals. What experts now know is that people in different parts of the world tended to use the same or similar plants for the same purposes.

Most cooks love herbs – Jamie Oliver says if he didn’t have herbs, he probably wouldn’t bother. It sounds extreme but once you start growing your own herbs, you do suddenly start planning meals around what you have a glut of in the same way people with vegetable patches do. This week I’m trying out mint sauce recipes since I have a huge pot of it. I’m also going to make something spicy tomorrow night just so I can use mint in some nice natural yogurt to go with it.

Coriander grows very easily but bolts quickly so you have to keep using the leaves. You can let it go to seed, let them dry out and then use them in cooking too. But I love the stuff and want lots of it in any Asian dish. It can transform a very simple curry or noodle salad.

It is sometimes called Chinese parsley, a bit of a misnomer since the taste is vastly different. It’s also one of the few herbs we use commonly now but did not appear as a character in The Herbs, possibly because it was too exotic then. It’s believed the word coriander comes from the Greek ‘koris’, meaning bed bug because they believed that an infested bed gave off a similar smell to the leaves.

This week’s recipe is pretty much Nigella’s gingery duck, which I made last Saturday night. It’s a lovely late summer dish when we’re perhaps gearing up for meatier dinners but are not quite ready to dive into the autumn stew stage. The orange is a classic with duck but this gives it a new, fresh twist. If you don’t care for duck, beef can work too. The important thing is the meat has to be rare when you plunge it into the marinade/sauce.

Ginger and orange duck

Serves two

Two duck breasts, skin trimmed at the edges and scored

One chilli, deseeded and chopped finely

Large piece of fresh ginger, grated

Juice of one lime

Juice of an orange (or a small wine glass)

One orange, segmented

Tbsp of sesame oil

2-3 tbsp of soy sauce

A green salad with lettuce, spring onions and thinly sliced cucumber


Rub the duck breasts with salt and just a tiny amount of sunflower or groundnut oil. Heat a griddle or frying pan until it is very hot and lay the duck skin-side down. It should sizzle. When the fat starts to run out, turn the duck over and sear the other side. Turn the heat down to moderate and put the breasts skin-side down again and then don’t touch. Cook over this gently heat for about another 10-15 minutes (depending on thickness). When most of the fat has come out and the skin is thin and crisping, remove to a warm plate and allow to rest.

While the duck is cooking, place the salad on a large platter. Put all the other ingredients in a large bowl and whisk thoroughly. When the duck has rested, slice as thinly as possible and plunge into the mixture. Pour any juices from the resting plate into the bowl too. Scatter over the salad leaves and cover with a good handful or coriander leaves.