Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Puntarelle salad with duck breast, baby artichokes, red onions and lemon

My body is screaming for salad. Greens, vegetables, fruit, it wants them all. After the gluttony of Christmas, all piled high with cheese and butter and meat, something had to give. And today I turned that corner. After waking early to trudge into town to perform that compulsory festive hangover of returns desks and form writing, I decided that a soothing lunch was in order. I hate all of the sheer rubbish written about January diets, detox and ‘cleasing’. I think that it promotes an ultimately unhealthy, unbalanced and most importantly unhappy approach to food. For me eating is all about a balance that should apply to any time of the year, and certainly nothing that is liable to turn my breakfast, lunch or dinner into a passive-aggressive guiltfest. I was happy to eat that mountain of food over Christmas, but greens were definitely on my mind today. 

I made a short detour to the wonderful greengrocers up at Newington Green. It’s sad that I hardly shop there having moved further east, but it’s always an absolute dream whenever I get the chance. On this occasion it truly didn’t disappoint. Today the shelves were heaving with great tangles of Italian puntarelle, beautiful, tightly-closed baby artichokes and unwaxed lemons. I didn’t have a particular recipe in my head, but I knew that I wouldn’t go far wrong somewhere along those lines.
Those ingredients alone would have made a fresh and vibrant salad, but I guess that I’m not quite ready to give up on Christmas just yet. To compromise, I roasted up a plump and fatty duck breast, until the skin was brulee-crisp and the flesh blushing pink. Thin slices formed the base, freshened up with a pile of sharply-dressed onions, artichoke and puntarelle and bound together with a punchy, anchovy-heavy green sauce. It’s simple cookery, but highly satisfying and damn tasty.
I’m determined to be more vegetable-focussed in the coming months, and although I have a steak recipe coming up on the blog shortly, I am hoping that it is a last-hurrah for a little while. Not to say that I won’t be eating and using meat and fish in my cookery, but they certainly will be on level terms with everything else on the plate.
Serves 2
1 large duck breast 
1 red onion, cut into thin wedges 
1 glass of dry white wine 
1 lemon
For the artichokes:
2 baby artichokes 
1 small red onion 
1 lemon
For the puntarelle:
A small bunch of puntarelle, trimmed, washed and dried 
A squeeze of lemon juice
For the green sauce:
1 bunch of parsley 
1/3 of a bunch of mint 
5 salted anchovies 
1 tsp capers 
4 thick slices of ciabatta, crusts removed 
1 lemon, zest and juice 
1 clove of smoked garlic, grated 
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200⁰C fan.
Remove the duck from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
Prepare the baby artichokes. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into a bowl and combine with 1 tbsp of olive oil and a little seasoning. Peel the tough outer leaves from the artichokes, then trim about 2/3rds of an inch away from the top. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the stems. Using a sharp knife, thinly slice the hearts and stems, transferring them straight into the lemony oil. Trim the red onion and thinly slice, then toss with the artichokes. Leave to lightly pickle for about an hour, tossing every now and then so that everything remains coated in the dressing.
To make the green sauce, put all ingredients apart from the oil into a food processor and season well. Blend to finely combine, then with the motor still running, trickle in the olive oil. Pour in enough to bring the ingredients together into a thick sauce that just about holds shape. Taste and season if necessary. 

Season the duck breast all over, then place skin-side-down into a cold pan. Bring to a medium-high temperature, gently rendering down the fat until it is crispy and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Seal the other side quickly for a few seconds, then transfer to an oven tray and roast for 6-8 minutes. Remove the cooked duck from the oven and rest for about 10 minutes, then slice thinly.
While the duck is roasting, add the onion wedges to the now empty pan. Pour in the wine and lemon juice, adding the squeezed lemons also. Turn the heat down to medium; the juices should have deglazed the pan and reduced down. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the onions have softened. Allow the pan to cool slightly, then remove the onions and stir 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the pan juices.
Dress the puntarelle with the slightly-cooled pan dressing and a little seasoning.
To plate up, arrange sliced of the duck onto each plate and add a dollop of the green sauce. Arrange the onions and artichokes on top along with some puntarelle stems. Finally finish with a spoonful of the pan dressing.

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