As part of my attempt to introduce new recipes into my kitchen I decided to try one of my husband's favourite Chinese dishes. Crispy Duck with pancakes.
It needs a bit of time - a few days !!- to do the prep, but its actually a fairly simple recipe to follow.
2 - 2.5kg duck
50g soft brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp Chinese 5 spice
2.5 g piece ginger peeled and grated (I used ground ginger from a jar)
2 star anise
For the Brining solution
140g brown sugar
300ml Chinese rice vinegar
2 spring onions cut into strips
1 cucumber cut into strips
How to do it...
Clean the duck washing the inside and then drying with paper towels.
Using a sharp skewer prick the skin all over.
Holding the duck by the neck pour boiling water over the skin. This tightens the skin and helps to produce the characteristic crispy skin.
Dissolve the 140g brown sugar in 200ml warm water and add the rice vinegar and 700ml cold water.
Put the duck in a large plastic bag and pour in the brining solution.
Chill for 3 hours or up to 24 hours turning over a few times.
Remove the duck from the bag and pat dry.
Leave the duck on a rack over a tray uncovered in the fridge overnight.
Before cooking remove from the fridge for an hour to let the duck get to room temp.
Combine the sugar and salt and five spice and rub this thoroughly inside the duck.
chop the shallots roughly and put inside the duck with the ginger and star anise.
Close up the end of the duck using a skewer.
Cook the duck on the rack over the tray in a 130 - 150C degree oven for 2 hours 15 mins.
Increase the oven heat to 220C degrees and cook for a further 15 mins to crisp up the skin.
If you want the duck even crispier you can heat some peanut oil until hot enough to cook a cube or bread and carefully spoon this over the duck.
I made a mistake here, I forgot to buy peanut oil and thought I could just use the oil that had dripped into the roasting tray.... this left black bits on the skin of the duck (you can see it in the photos) It didn't change the taste, but it wasn't as visually appealing as I had hoped.
Serve rolled in the pancakes with a drizzle of the hoisin sauce, cucumber and spring onions.
I also fried some Bak Choi (called crispy seaweed in Cantonese restaurants) as a starter. I just cut the green part into fine strips and fried it in about 10 cm of oil. it cooks very quickly so fish it out as soon as it changes colour.
It was a huge success. The flavour was amazing, the duck was moist and the kitchen smelt like a Chinese restaurant. Hubby loved it, and there was way too much for just the two of us so my Brother In Law came over and had a take away too. I'll definitely be making this again, especially since the duck was relatively inexpensive in the wholesale food store I'v started using.
If you give it a try, let me know how you get on. Enjoy.
Most people don't see as much of the city they live in as the tourists who visit it. I don't have any statistics to support this, but just listening to friends who say..
'Oh, I've lived here for years and never seen that'
tells me that this is true.
In fact when we lived in NY we saw more of the USA than many of our American friends... we visited Mt Rushmore, Bryce County National Park, Drove from San Diego to San Francisco, went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans and lay on a beach in Hawaii.... all in all we visited 23 states in 2 years, maximising our time there. I guess we are not 'the norm'.
I lived in London for 16 years and I did visit most of the sights. We had lots of visitors from Switzerland during the years when my husband and I lived there together so whilst escorting them around I saw a lot more than the average Londoner.
There were still LOTS of things I hadn't done though so when a friend from New York City was visiting for a few days I jumped at the chance to 'be a tourist' with him. Of course we weren't the usual tourists dithering at the ticket machine at the tube station and trying to work out how to negotiate the vast London Underground network, I made fabulous restaurant reservations and knew exactly the quickest way from A to B, but we still had a hit list of 'sights' to see.
The list included some of the most popular, Tower of London, St Paul's, Westminster Abbey which of course I had already done, but also included the more obscure like the Silver Vaults which I had never even heard of. Ask how many of your London friends have even heard of The Silver Vaults and I'm pretty sure there won't be a lot.
There were also the predictable lunch and dinner spots. The only one I had been to before was the Gherkin... all of the others most Londoners avoid like the plague, but 'In for a penny, in for a pound' and all that... so The Goring, Claridges and the Savoy were added to the list. I added a couple of more local spots to keep a little balance. One of my fave spots, Berners Tavern was a firm favourite with my American friend as was Mr Foggs Gin Parlour.
Here is a more detailed explanation of what we got up to, Maybe it will give you some idea for your next visit to the 'smoke'.
We booked a table in the 'lobby' restaurant for lunch during the week. It was quiet and the staff greeted me warmly showing me to the table where I waited until my friend arrived. My friend, as I mentioned, is American and this was somewhere he really wanted to visit. It's not somewhere I would normally go and I was pleasantly surprised by the sensibly priced menu.
I ordered Roast beef sandwich and hand cut chips and they were perfect.
My friend had the set lunch but I was short of time so couldn't indulge. I explained to the staff I was short of time and so my order was brought very promptly.
To be honest it's not somewhere I would return to alone but I would take visitors to London without hesitation and would definitely recommend it. Food was very good quality and service was excellent.
Claridges, Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1K 4HR +44 (0)20 7629 8860 website
Amazing service in an incredibly elegant environment. From the moment I arrived to wait for my friend in the bar the staff went out of their way to make me feel comfortable offering me a newspaper to read or the dinner menu.
When my friend arrived the restaurant waiter took our food orders and the sommelier came to discuss wines and we were escorted to the dining room when dinner was ready to be served.
Everything we ate was delicious. Starting with the bread and perfectly salted butter.
The Cep risotto that we both had to start was perfect. Great flavour and well presented. My friend had Brill for the main course and I had cod, again both cooked perfectly. Desserts were equally impressive. You would expect noting less from a Michelin Star restaurant and The Goring didn't disappoint.
The dining room is simply lovely. It's all very elegant - and the tables are spaced to ensure privacy. A great place for a special occasion dinner. I'd highly recommend a reservation here.
The Goring 15 Beeston Place, London SW1W 0JW +44 (0) 20 7396 9000 Website
This was my third visit to Berners Tavern and won't be my last. We booked in advance and got a great corner table enabling us to see the whole room which was great for people watching.
The dining room is stunning with high ceilings and lots of paintings giving it a real wow factor.
The menu offers something for everybody and even those who don't have an unlimited budget. There are burgers on the menu and wine by the glass - of which there was quite a good selection, of course you can also have amazing British lobster and steaks with champagne too.
My starter - pork pie was wheeled out on a trolley and was sliced at the table and dressed with a selection of pickles and mustards. It was delicious.
My burger for my main course was really tasty and juicy. Although it didn't look 'big' neither I nor my friend could finish them. We chose not to have desserts as the 2 courses we had were quite substantial, which was a bit of a shame, as I know the desserts are very good....
I'll be back again and again and have been recommending to everyone who visits London.
Berners Tavern, 10 Berners Street, London +44 (0)20 7908 7979 WEBSITE
The Savoy Bar
Dark but elegant decor with an old fashioned elegant feel. You expect well dressed men and women in pearls drinking cocktails but sadly when we were there it was just men in suits drinking beers with colleagues.
Our waiter was charming and out G&Ts were good. The drinks menu is a pop up menu book which was delightful. I may venture over for afternoon tea... or Kaspars Seafood Bar...
The Savoy, Strand, London, WC2R OEU + 44 (0)20 7836 4343 website
Mr Fogg's Gin Parlour
A friend who comes here regularly suggested I try this place, what a fabulous find. I would highly recommend booking ahead. It's small and they simply don't have space for drop ins. We managed to get standing room space because we were early and only wanted one drink before a dinner reservation. The staff are all fab - great personalities, especially the guy who works downstairs on the door.
They have hundreds of gins and many different tonics to go with them. Our drinks arrived beautifully garnished and the cocktails we saw others drink looked equally beautiful. If you even like hi just a little bit you will love this place. It's quirky and fun. I'm already looking forward to another visit - this time with a reservation!!
Mr Fogg's Gin Parlour 1 New Row, Covent Garden +44 207 590 3605 WEBSITE
Tower of London
It was years since I had visited the Tower so I was quite looking forward to this bit of the trip. Its on most tourists hit list so it can get very busy.
We got to the tower at just after 9am and there was hardly anyone there. We decided to go and visit the Crown Jewels before taking the 10am guided tour with one of the Yeoman Warders who actually lives and guards the Tower. We got to spend loads of time in the jewel room and were the only ones there. The security guard was knowledgeable and we had a great chat with him.
There were about 40 people on the short tour with the Yeoman Warder but that wasn't a problem and he was very entertaining. We got to go inside the church which you wouldn't be able to do without the guide. It was an informative tour and the guide had some great anecdotes.
The Tower compound is much larger inside that it looks like it will be. Its was a thoroughly enjoyable site to visit.
After the tour we had another walk around and then enjoyed tea and a biscuits in the cafe. There weren't a lot of people visiting at all so our morning was calm and relaxed.
If you can go first thing in the morning I'd advise it.. even better if it's in January.
We were not able to make a guided tour as the times are not advertised on the website and we missed the last one when we arrived. This was really a shame as I love the interaction and being able to ask questions...Also i don't particularly like the audio guides. Despite this we stuill really enjoyed out visit. The Gothic Abbey has been the venue for many royal weddings and funerals and is also the burial site for many key figures in British history.
The abbey is beautiful and there is a lot to see so it's worth allowing 2-3 hours.
As a bonus just over the road is Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
St. Paul's cathedral
Located in the City of London St Paul's Cathedral is London's Anglican cathedral.
Designed by Sir Christopher Wren it is spectacular.
We arrived at 9am and booked spaces on the 10am tour. Elaine (?) our tour guide was fabulous. She clearly loves her job and St Paul's and was full of information. Taking the tour also means being able to access some restricted areas of the cathedral.
St Paul's has held the silver, Golden and Diamond jubilee celebrations and the 80th adn 90th birthday celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II. It is also where Charles and Diana were married and was where the funerals of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher were held.
We spent 2.5 hours and didn't get to see everything. I could easily have spent 4 hours there.
The Silver Vaults
I never even knew that the vaults existed but my American friend had seen a tv documentary and wanted to see them so I went along. I'm so glad I did.
The Vaults opened in 1885 as The Chancery Lane Safety Deposit.
The vaults now house traders shops selling silver. LOTS of them.
There are shops selling new modern items and shops selling antique table wear and everything in between. There isn't a lot of jewellery.
It's a fascinating place to visit and the traders there are mostly descendants of the original traders. They are happy to chat and tell you about their wares.
It's a great place to pick up a unique gift.
CHANCERY LANE, LONDON WC2A 1QSWebsite
If you are planning a trip to London I hope I have given you some ideas of places to eat and things to do during your visit. Have a look also at the Fabulous things to do in London 1 - 5 in the index on the right. There are some less tourists things to do if you have been to London many times.
Whatever the case, I hope you enjoy London - it has a special place in my heart and I hope it finds a way into your heart too.
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