This refreshing salad is packed full of bitter-sweet flavours which unsurprisingly are an excellent foil for the rich, dark duck meat. The balanced flavour combination of this dish is matched by the textures of it, too – juicy mandarin segments, crisp salad leaves and the crunch of the toasted cashews – I spent the whole meal trying to get a bit of everything on my fork at once! The pickled cucumber was intended as an accompaniment to another dish, but I decided at the last minute to use it here in place of carrot as it has a pleasing sweet and sour taste and a satisfying bite. All in all, a fantastic (not to mention happy looking) plate of food for a light dinner or lunch.
For the pickled cucumbers: (best made a couple of hours, or even a day, in advance)
1/2 a large cucumber, sliced into pieces about 4mm thick
3 tbsp. rice vinegar (I’ve also used white wine vinegar in the past)
3 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. caster sugar
1 heaped tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp. finely grated ginger
For the salad:
Shredded meat from 1 already roasted duck leg
A few handfuls salad leaves, cut into manageable-sized pieces
1/2 small fennel bulb, cut into thin strips and green fronds reserved
1 large mandarin, segments cut and membrane removed (or orange, or a sweetish grapefruit)
A few kumquats, cut into slivers
1 tbsp. roughly chopped coriander
1 tbsp. chilli jam
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp. honey
About 15 cashew nuts
For the pickled cucumber:
Lay the cucumber slices in a shallow bowl large enough to accommodate all the pieces in a single layer. Mix together all of the other ingredients, then pour evenly over the cucumber. Put in the fridge, and try and remember to give it all a good stir around every so often (especially if you’re using it on the same day you make it.)
For the salad:
Begin by toasting the cashews in a dry pan, tossing every so often, until they take on some colour. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Arrange the salad leaves on your plates. Remove the segments of about 2/3 of the mandarin, discarding the membrane so you’re just left with the juicy, glistening wedges of fruit (set the remainder aside.) Tuck slices of cucumber under the leaves, scatter the fennel all over, and arrange the mandarin and kumquat pieces around the outer edge of the plates.
In a small pan, gently heat the chilli jam, soy and honey. Add the duck and stir so each piece is well coated. Cook on a high heat, stirring now and then, until the pieces of meat turn sticky and start to caramelise. Remove from the heat and pile the duck up on top of the salad into little tasty mounds. Sprinkle the coriander and fennel fronds all over the salads, and add the nuts to the plate.
Finally, squeeze the juice from the remaining mandarin into the pan you cooked the duck in, heating it gently to de-glaze the pan. Stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve any stuck on bits. Ta-da – dressing sorted!