THE ISLAND COOK

FIVE-SPICED DUCK BREAST & little apples

So I'm splashing out here using duck am I? Well no, at least not in expense terms. Because duck is relatively rich (and I would never willingly reject its prize crisped skin in the interests of healthy eating), I buy the usual pack of two breasts and divi up one between two while freezing the other for a future nosh-in. The single breast duly carved into neat slices and plated up with assorted toothsome accompaniments – whole stuffed apples, potato wedges and gravy – looks luxurious and not the least bit mean, although you have in fact made yourself a decent saving every whichway. The classic Chinese five-spice seasoning links all the elements without stamping the dish 'oriental', and those warm sweet spices are perfect for autumn.

Serves 2

• 2 large spuds, peeled and cut into thick wedges
• 2 tsp five-spice powder
• 1/4 tsp chilli powder
• 1 tsp runny honey
• 11/2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
• 1 duck breast, skin on, seasoned with salt and black pepper
• 1/2 Knorr chicken stock cube
• Good glug of crème de cassis

for the apples
• 5 small apples
• 1 tsp each runny honey and five-spice powder
• 1 tsp sunflower or vegetable oil

NB My photo shows 'bits' in the gravy; this is from a spoonful of plum jam I stirred in, but you really don't need that as well as the cassis, though you could use it instead if you like, with a bit more liquid

SAM_0081

First, briskly simmer the potato wedges in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 10 minutes or until softened but not falling apart, although it's all to the good if they are a bit flaky. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/Gas 6. Mix the five-spice, chilli powder, honey and salt and black pepper with the oil. Score the duck skin in diagonal lines one way and then the other, diamond style, then brush the other side lightly with the oil and spice mix.
Drain the spuds in a colander and leave the steam to evaporate while you stick a roasting tray in the oven to heat and prepare the apples. For the latter, core 4 of the apples and score a line around their middles with a knife. Peel, core and finely chop the 5th apple, then mix with the honey and five-spice. Use to stuff the core cavities.
Back to the wedges, toss them with the remaining oil and spice mix in the hot roasting tray, then slam in the top of the oven for about 30 minutes until well crisped, checking and turning them about halfway through that time.
Back to the apples. Heat the tsp oil in a saucepan, add the stuffed apples and then cover and cook over a low heat for 20–25 minutes until tender but not collapsed. Cooking time will depend on the type/size of apple, so check after 15 minutes and turn off the heat, leaving the lid on, if beginning to fall apart.
Meanwhile, for the duck, heat a griddle pan or heavy-based frying pan over a high heat, add the duck skin-side down and cook for 5 minutes, draining off the excess fat as you go. Flip over and sear the meat side for 1–2 mins. Transfer to a small shallow roasting tin and cook in the oven below the spud for 15 minutes, bearing in mind that you'll ideally need a further 5 mins for resting it before serving. Pour the stock cube dissolved in a mug of hot water into the duck pan and its duck residue and stir to scrape up any stuck-on bits. Slosh in the cassis and gently bubble away.
After resting the duck, slice prettily and serve with your gravy, apples and wedges, plus a nice green veg.