Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Chinese New Year 2014 - The Year of the Horse, Roast Duck and Melon Salad with Champagne

This year the Chinese New Year begins on 31st January and is the Year of the Horse. There are several traditional foods that are served over the Chinese New Year to celebrate and to bring luck. Duck symbolises happiness and fidelity and is also a popular dish at Chinese wedding banquets. As the Lantern Festival (the Chinese Valentine's Day which marks the end of the New Year celebrations) falls on Saint Valentine's Day on 14th February this year I thought a duck recipe would be rather appropriate!

Roast Duck and Melon Salad

1 fresh duck (about 2kg / 4 lb)
1 ripe melon (you can use different melons if you want a more colourful salad, eg watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew)


2 tbsp salted soya beans (mashed)
4 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp Light Soy sauce
½ tsp Dark Soy sauce

1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp Sweet and Sour sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
red food colouring

For Blanching

2 litres water
1 cup Chinese Rice vinegar
1 cup Chinese Rice wine
2 large lemons (or limes), sliced
3 tbsp honey


4 tbsp Plum sauce
3 tbsp light Salad oil
1 tsp Sesame oil
1 cup melon juice

Wash the duck and pat dry with kitchen towels. Mix the seasoning ingredients in a bowl and then put inside the duck cavities. Close the duck cavities with skewers.

Bring the blanching ingredients to the boil in a large pan. Hold the duck firmly in one hand and use the other to ladle the liquid over the duck for about 1 minute. Rub the duck with red food colouring. Hang the duck up in an airy space for at least 2 hours to dry the skin thoroughly.

When the duck is dry, put it into a hot oven and roast for about 45 minutes. Allow to cool. Before serving, debone the duck and cut it into slices.

Slice open the melon and discard the seeds. Carve out melon balls using a scoop. Blend the remainder of the melon flesh to make your melon juice. Combine the rest of the sauce ingredients, stirring to mix well.

To serve, arrange the duck slices and melon balls on a plate and pour over the sauce.

Wine Pairing

As for what wine is suitable to celebrate the Chinese New Year, well it has to be Champagne, of course! Why not try a Grower Champagne such as Champagne Morel Pere et Fils? Unlike major brands (Mumm, Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot etc) who buy in their grapes, Grower Champagnes are made by independent producers who own their own vineyards, grow their own grapes and make their own champagne. Champagne Morel's vineyards lie over 18 acres on the chalky limestone slopes of the Laigne valley.

Although perfect as an aperitif or a toast, Champagne Morel is also very versatile with food, pairing with salty and savoury appetizers, spicy curries, seafood, fish, poultry, cold cuts and salamis, creamy pastas and desserts.

Champagne Morel is a superb Champagne, sophisticated and refined with a fine, long lasting mousse of bubbles. It's very well balanced, combining richness with elegance and is aromatic with generous flavours of dried apricot, toasted brioche and lime blossom with delicate hints of red berries, lemon and spice.


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Lucky Pigs for the New Year and Stuffed Belly Pork with Smoked Ham

Whilst looking for images for the New Year I came across lots of vintage postcards depicting lucky pigs. My curiosity roused, I decided to find out more about them. Apparently the New Year Lucky Pig (Glucksschwein) is Teutonic in origin and is a lucky symbol across Germany and Austria. Sources say that it was once popular in England and Ireland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I've never heard of this before and asked my elderly relatives if they can remember anything about it as children but they can't. However it's still used in the USA.

Pigs have been symbols of strength, wealth and fertility since ancient times – the Norse goddess Freyja rode a boar with golden bristles and pigs were sacred to her. Lucky pigs made from marzipan, sugar, fudge, chocolate or cookie dough are traditionally given in Germany as a gift on New Year's Eve. In Austria suckling pig is served on New Year's Day and often the table is decorated with sweet Lucky Pigs. The four leaf clover is also another symbol used with the Lucky Pig and sometimes green peppermint ice cream is served in the shape of a four leaf clover after the roast pig course. I wonder if this was inspired by the saying 'happy as a pig in clover'?

Dutch superstition says that eating pork on New Year’s Day brings good luck because a pig roots forward to look for its food, while chickens scratch backward and cows stand still. In Norway and Denmark, a tradition involves a rice pudding or porridge with a whole almond baked inside. The person who finds the almond in their dish receives a Lucky Pig as a prize.

A common saying in Germany is 'ich habe Schwein gehabt' (I have had pig), which means 'I've been lucky!' The saying is thought to have come about as you were considered lucky to have fattened up a pig, which meant you would have meat to survive the winter. The pig's status as a lucky charm in Germany is also supposed to date back to old decks of playing cards in which the Ace was known as 'die Sau' (a sow).

There is a mouthwatering recipe for Stuffed Belly Pork (Der Gefuellte Schweinebauch) that might be fun to try out over the New Year. Who knows it might bring you a little luck too!

Der Gefuellte Schweinebauch

1 kg belly pork
salt and black pepper to taste
1 swede, cubed
1 onion, quartered

2 cloves garlic, crushed


100g beef mince
100g smoked ham
100g breadcrumbs
1 bunch fresh parsley
pinch of sugar
handful of fresh marjoram
1 onion, finely diced

Cut a deep pocket into the belly pork. Mix the stuffing ingredients together in a bowl and stuff the pocket in the belly pork. Tie or sew the pocket shut with culinary string. Score the skin of the belly pork with a sharp knife and rub with salt so that it will form crackling as it roasts. Place in a deep roasting tin with the swede, onion and garlic cloves. Roast in an oven at 190ºC until the skin is crispy. Serve with mashed potatoes, the vegetables cooked with roast and gravy made from the juices in the pan.

Wine Pairing

Belly pork is actually the cut that produces streaky bacon or pancetta and Rosé pairs very well with these as well as pork, ham and gammon. Either Chateau Lamothe Vincent Rosé or Chateau Roques du Mauriac would be a good choice!