An Anglo-French Affair

On the menu:

“Everything Duck” Salad

Salmon Fish Cakes with a Lemon Butter Sauce

Pumpkin meets an Avocado and a Pecan Pie

I may be a foodie, but I also LOVE dancing.

Over the many years of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, it has now become a tradition with some fellow dancer-foodie-friends to take turns at each other’s houses to watch the show, merrily criticize it to the hilt and then enjoy dinner together as if nothing happened.

As my friend’s home is in flux, I suspect I may host the next episodes of Strictly 2016 for the foreseeable…

Did I mention I alternate health with indulgence? Well, last night’s first Strictly outing was definitely indulgent rather than healthy…

I did finish with a semi-raw pumpkin pie meets pecan pie served with pumpkin yoghurt. But then I ruined the healthy  afterthought by serving it with whipped vanilla cream. Does it count that the latter was sweetened with stevia instead of refined white sugar?

Anyways.

I rediscovered my love for the French duck salad on my many recent business trips to Paris. Basics traditionally involve some sturdy salad leaves, smoked duck and haricots verts (green beans to you and I). Sometimes these basic ingredients are upgraded with foie gras, duck gizzards, hard boiled eggs and/or figs.

As I brought back some Rougie bloc foie gras de canard from the Eurostar lounge at Gare du Nord on the cheap, I decided to lump everything I know and love about this epic duck salad onto a plate. Rougie foie gras is far from perfect, but perfect enough for this salad.

And what better to follow this French classic than an English classic? Had some slow roasted salmon and lemony braised chicory vac-packed in the freezer, ideal for a simple Saturday supper with friends

THE RECIPES

“Everything Duck” Salad (serves 4 – GF DF RSF LC)

duck salad with figs and walnuts

This is not so much a recipe than well an orchestration. Easy peasy.

Ingredients

Some sturdy mixed salad leaves (I used a bag of organic mixed leaves and raw beetroot)

1 smoked duck breast, in wafer thin slices (I used Chapel and Swan kiln smoked duck breast, skin removed and reserved. Remove the slices from the fridge min 30 mins before serving)

Tinned duck foie gras, in wafer thin slices (remove from the tin and chill in the fridge. Cut with a warmed sharp knife whilst fridge cold and lay the individual slices on a tray in the fridge. Remove from the fridge 30 mins before serving)

4 hard boiled eggs, cut into 4-6 lengthwise depending on size. (I cooked them sous vide at 68-70 degrees C for 45-60 mins which gives a set white and an ultra yellow malleable yolk)

A good handful of green beans (haricots verts), cooked and cut into 3-4 cm pieces)

4-5 fresh figs cut into 4 or 6 depending on size

A handful of walnut halves or pieces, or honey salted walnuts (see below)

A handful of duck crackling (optional – see below)

Some balsamic reduction, homemade or bought for drizzling (optional)

For the dressing: walnut or rapeseed oil, balsamic vinegar, wholegrain mustard, honey, S&P

Method

If using the duck crackling, cut the duck skin into lardons, and heat in a high-sided pan with a good splash of water on low heat. Let the fat render and the lardons turn golden in about 1 hrs time, adding a splash of water whenever the pan runs dry. Drain, dry and cool, store in an airtight container.

If using honey salted walnuts, mix some walnut halves or pieces with honey and grind over some salt. Spread them out on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 8-15 mins on 185C or until golden. Separate and store in an airtight container once cooled. These are great for snacking too, and might even work with a dessert as they have that cheeky sweet-savoury thing going on.

When ready to serve, lightly dress the leaves and gently build onto each plate. Surround/top with the other ingredients, scattering the crackling (if using) and walnuts over at the end. Finish with a balsamic reduction drizzle (if using)

Salmon fishcakes (serves 4-6 – DF GF RSF)

Salmon fishcakes with Lemon butter sauce and poached egg

Ingredients

400 gr cooked salmon, skinned, dark flesh removed and roughly flaked

500 gr potatoes, cooked and dry-mashed (preferable baked and flesh scooped out, no mashing needed. I had a sweet potato lurking too, so baked that and scooped out the flesh to add to the potatoes)

1 rounded tbsp small capers, drained and rinsed

1 tbsp grain mustard

1 tbsp tomato ketchup (optional -I used Mr Organic, fabulous intense stuff)

1 tbsp anchovy essence or a couple of anchovies from a jar, drained and finely chopped

2 tbsp snipped chives

Finely grated zest of a lemon

S&P

coating: (GF) flour, 1 beaten egg, (GF) breadcrumbs (I used buckwheat flour, duck egg and panko)

rapeseed oil for frying

Method

Mix the potato with everything apart from the salmon, oil and butter. Gently fold in the flaked salmon. Chill in the fridge for minimum 30 mins.

You can shape the fishcakes free-form, but for even cooking and aesthetics, I prefer the following:

Gently roll out the fish cake mix between 2 sheets of grease-proof paper to about 3.5 cm. Cut out round patties using a cup, mug or cookie cutter. Place on a tray and chill in the fridge for minimum 30 mins.

Place the coating ingredients in 3 separate deep dishes. Gently flour, egg and breadcrumb each patty, patting it back into shape before placing back on the tray. Chill for minimum 30 mins. Alternatively, they can  be frozen at this point

When ready to serve, heat the oil over medium-high heat and fry each patty for 5 mins each side or until golden. Keep warm in a low oven until all done and ready to serve.

Left over cooked fish cakes can be frozen and reheated in a 180 C oven.

Serve with salad or veg of choice and/or mash or chips if you like a white carb overload. I served these with a sous vide poached egg each, wilted garlic spinach (microwave for 3-5 mins on high), lemon braised chicory (and right there is the Belgian addition to the English classic!) and a lemon butter sauce.

Salmon fishcakes with Lemon butter sauce and poached egg

Lemon butter sauce (serves 4 – GF V SF RSF)

Ingredients

small knob of butter

1 small shallot, finely chopped

75 ml white wine

1 clove of garlic, crushed or sliced (optional)

75 ml good stock or water (I used chicken stock for depth of flavour)

juice of 1/2 or 1 lemon (to taste)

1-2 tbsp double cream or creme fraiche (optional)

150 gr cold butter in small cubes

snipped chives

Method

Gently fry the shallot in a knob of butter over a medium/low heat. You don’t want it to colour. Add the garlic and wine and reduce to 1 tbsp. Add the stock or water and reduce to 1 tbsp. Add the lemon juice and reduce to 1 tbsp.

Drain and return the reduction to the pan over medium-low. Add the cream (if using) and reduce a little. Gradually whisk in the remaining cold butter, a cube at the time. You may need more or less butter depending on how thick you like your sauce. Do not boil or the sauce will separate.

Add the chives just before serving. Alternatively, you could use parsley, dill, or a little tarragon.

If needed, this sauce can be made in advance and very gently reheated while whisking often.

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