Monthly Archives: February 2014

Guest Post – Chinese-Style Duck Legs with Plum Sauce

Hi there, invisible The Public.

It’s still diet-ahoy here so the only things I’ve been cooking up are reasons why I deserve a cheat and revenge plans for this one dickhead at the pool who is a regular in the fast lane when he is, at best, at the top end of slow. I had a run-in with him a week ago and was incredibly gratified to see, this morning, him being once more at the receiving end of a polite ticking off from a proper swimmer. Christ knows what his problem is – if he wanted to go faster the first thing he should do is wear a full-body swimsuit to get some kind of aerodynamic (waterodynamic?) shape going, and secondly he should stop freestyling with a bent arm.  Freestylers (which in the UK is called Front Crawl, something I find really confusing as Front Crawl describes pretty much NewHuman’s current preferred mode of transport) who swim with a bent arm do my head in.

The good news is that the second pair of my swimmers (I wear two at a time for I am a Proper Swimmer) is now loose to the point of allowing a fair amount of unrestrained post-baby bosom to swing freely below the waterline. Not a great look but one which I have decided is not my problem and, if anything, provides a little more drag and, thus, free calorie burning. I’ve lost 341kg so far – woohoo!  Only another 450kg to go.

E has been, as usual, a dream and responded to my not very subtle begging with a yum guest post.  I love her.

Go forth and duck.



Hi! Me again. B is subsisting on hunks of meat and sheer bloody mindedness (known in sado masochistic circles as “low carb dieting”) and so asked me to contribute something. I’m contributing duck. It’s one of Jamie’s recipes, and it’s bloody delicious. It’s also very simple to cook and, I imagine, would be quite nice for a dinner party. I wouldn’t know about that because I never have dinner parties or guests.
For two you will need:


Two duck legs
7-8 ripe plums
4-5 star anise
Half a cinnamon stick
3 teaspoons Chinese five spice
4 tablespoons soy sauce (I ran out of light soy sauce and had to use a very dark version I picked up in an Asian supermarket a while back. It’s blacker than Bashar al-Assad’s soul and so will, after cooking, make the duck look burnt even though it isn’t. Use a lighter soy sauce if you can is what I’m trying to say. AND DONT JUDGE MY FINISHED DUCK FOR IT IS NOT BURNT)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 chillies, deseeded or not, up to you. I left my seeds in because I quite enjoy searing pain followed by numbness
2 tablespoons demerara sugar


First, the duck needs to marinate. Overnight would be good, but who the hell plans ahead like that? (Me. Sometimes) Just marinate for as long as you can, but preferably for at least two hours. Chuck duck, star anise, cinnamon stick, five spice, soy sauce and olive oil in a plastic bag, seal however you see fit and squash and rub it all about for a bit. Be quite gentle so the star anise doesn’t pierce the bag. Pointy little buggers, star anise. Put in the fridge until needed.


About 2 to 2.5 hours before you want to eat take the duck out of the fridge and preheat your oven to about…..170 degrees or thereabouts. Jamie says 170 but my (fan assisted) oven is prone to sullen bouts of indiscriminate incineration, so I kept the temperature at about 150. Know your oven. Ovens are temperamental.
Halve the plums and put in a roasting tray that will give the duck legs a snug fit. Finely slice the chillies and throw over, along with the sugar.
Pour over the marinade, making sure to include the cinnamon stick and star anise. Mix everything up with your hands, because you’re rustic and cool.


Forget about that two seconds after the fact and rub your eyes, all itchy due to the moulting canine asshole living in your house. Now your eyes are itchy AND burny! Cry for an hour, apply wine liberally. Swear.


Plonk duck legs on top of the plum mixture and put in the preheated oven to roast.

Go to check on your oldest – suspiciously quiet for the past ten minutes – and find her fast asleep in the following gravity-defying position:


Now bedtime is utterly buggered! Yay! Anyway. The duck needs about 2 to 2.5 hours in the oven. The meat should come off the bone easily. The skin should be crispy. The whole thing ought to smell goddamn heavenly.
When it’s ready serve the duck and chunky plum sauce with whatever you fancy. I had it with basmati rice and some pak choi and broccoli stir-fried with oyster sauce, garlic and sesame seeds. ‘Twas delicious.


Vietnamese broth with prawn-and-pork meatballs

So. It’s been a while. HOW ARE YOU?  I imagine you’ve been sitting around for the best part of a month, starving to actual death without a single clue about what to eat because I’ve been a lazy cow and not bothered to tell you.


It’s just that I’ve been on Hell Diet and I’ve returned to work and NewHuman has had a shitty cold and a revolving duo of nannies and we’ve had cupboards built and new chairs delivered (but no table) and I’ve had a green-snot cold and been involved in some serious swim-lane rage at the local pool. Things have been busy but the lack of posting is mostly due to the fact that I’m not cooking very much at the moment.

The boyfriend’s previous life of rising at 9am, working a leisurely day in a media setting and returning home in the evening to a hot, cooked meal, NewHuman quiet and compliant in bed and a clean home, has gone. Gone maybe forever. Now he’s forced to get up at 7am with NewHuman whilst I get ready and dash off to work.  He’s forced to do handover of care of NewHuman to the hot blonde nanny (changing to the hot brunette nanny next week, such a hardship) and then work all day to show he deserves a pay-rise, and then returns home to (a still clean and tidy house and in-bed NewHuman) to high-five me as I pass him at the front door on my way to the pool.   Once inside he, I imagine, forlornly opens the fridge door and sighs deeply as he reaches for his third packet of cold sliced ham this week, tarting it up with a sweet pickled gherkin, some home-brand cheddar and a pint glass of water.

I get home from the pool, having been at work since 8am, getting home at 6pm and sorting NewHuman and racing off to pool by 730pm, in a knackered state but generally full of internal rage at the apparent inability of the general British public to appropriately share swimming lanes. DRIVES ME CRAZY.

Anyway that’s all as may be.  We are all perfectly well and victims only of our own decisions in terms of diet and exercise.  In general we are happy, vanity being a marvellous motivator when it comes to eating the same fucking thing for the hundreth day in a row.

Not long before I gave up cooking altogether I made a yum soup that was based on a Bill Granger recipe. Mine wasn’t the same, obv, as I’m not fancy enough to keep star anise just floating  around my spice cupboard (although maybe I am, I’m scared to dig too deeply).


For the meatballs

150g/5oz peeled raw prawns, finely chopped – I used cooked prawns, IT WAS FINE
250g/8oz pork mince
4 spring onions, finely chopped
2cm piece ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, crushed
½ tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 red chilli, finely chopped – I used dried chilli flakes, IT WAS FINE

For the soup

1 litre/1¾ pints chicken stock
3cm piece ginger, sliced
Juice 1 lime, plus 1 lime to serve
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 cinnamon stick – yeah right, no way chum. I didn’t use this and IT WAS FINE
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 star anise – for god’s sake. I didn’t use. IT WAS FINE
4 baby bok choy, leaves separated
Handful coriander sprigs
Handful mint leaves – forgot to buy, didn’t use. IT WAS FINE.
Handful bean sprouts
1 red chilli, sliced
2 spring onions, shredded


Put all the ingredients for the prawn- and-pork balls in a large bowl. Use your hands to mix, squeezing the ingredients together until well combined. Wet your hands every 2-3 balls or so – roll the mixture into approx 12 small balls. Put on a plate and chill for 30 minutes.


Pork and prawn balls.




Place the stock, 300ml/½ pint water, ginger, lime juice, fish sauce, cinnamon stick (if using) , sugar and the star anise (if using, you showy princess, you) in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the meatballs and simmer for 5 minutes.  As I didn’t use cinnamon and star anise I fiddled around with rice wine vinegar and more fish sauce and soy and lime and stuff to get the balance of sweet/sour/hot/and whatever the other one is.


I actually made an executive decision to not use bok choy and used, instead, chinese cabbage and some mushrooms. Was yum. Take that Bill Granger, with your clean-soap smell (I imagine) and your unsettlingly happy face.


Boiled balls.

Yum, eh? Like, why wouldn’t you want to eat this?


Sometimes I worry about NewHuman.

Anyway, below is the finished thing. Squeeze some lime over the top of the ladled out soup, topped with spring onions, bean sprouts and chopped chilli and coriander. Is bloody yum.

Mmmm food.