I have always considered myself quite a nice person. I like food of all shapes, flavours and colours. From every country and continent. I don’t discriminate, I am an equal opportunity eater. It’s only the doctors who say I’m intolerant. And certain foods who refuse to tolerate me. They certainly refuse to recognise and respect my right to eat them without major physical discomfort and distress.

Gluten and lactose are not my friends.

Despite the negative attitudes surrounding me from many of those I love best, (cakes, ice cream, hot toast) I decided to become a chef. Not always easy when you live in a bread and milk filled world. I like to think that this has helped me become a better person as I embrace my differences and refuse to let the gluten get me down. I believe InTolerance. I am the InTolerant Chef.

Food should not be about what you can’t eat, but what you can and what you enjoy eating. This blog is about my journey of cooking and eating and discovery. It’s not a definitive guide to allergy awareness nor do my intolerances make me an expert. Your body is your responsibility, not mine. I only know what works for me.

I can tell you this..... No glutens were harmed in the making of this website.

July 4, 2011

Duck for Dessert

Hello My Lovelies, it's time for another 365 Challenge through
Murdoch Books!

They have a great team working their way through Stephane Reynaud's '365 Good Reasons to Sit Down to Eat' Cookbook. A mix of all sorts of people who cook for fun.

In case you missed it, this was my previous challenge and I enjoyed it very much, it was loads of fun and always interesting to try something new.


This time around I got July 1st, Duck With Honey.

Now I don't mind a bit of sweetness with savoury foods, and this pairing of duck and honey seemed to make sense. Then I read the rest of the ingredients, and let's just say I had my doubts. It's good to stretch your culinary style sometimes, and I would hate to be thought narrow minded, so I threw caution to the winds and sallied forth into the world of sticky wine, sticky honey and sticky, sticky duck.

3 Tab Honey
200ml Sauternes
1 Tab Armagnac
3 Duck breasts
1 Tab Herbes de Provence
6 Apricots
3 Peaches
1 Eggplant
50gr Almonds
50gr Hazelnuts
Salt and Pepper

Cooking is all about adapting.

Sometimes the recipe in a book calls for items that are out of season, out of stock, or out of my price range!

As we are currently shivering our way through the middle of a cold Canberra winter, fresh peaches and apricots were mysteriously hard to find. Tinned ones? Not really the right posh-iness expected in French cooking, dried ones? Definitely a better choice.

Herbes de Provence were unaccountably not in the spice aisle at Woolies, but a quick Google search helped me mix up a blend of lavender, thyme and rosemary which at least gave a Gallic vibe that I hoped would not offend Stephane if he ever stumbled across this blog!

Sauternes and Armagnac were available at my local grog shop, but my purse-strings were astonishingly hard to loosen when confronted with the price. After a brief struggle, my purse and I reached a compromise and settled on a bottle of Botrytis Sticky and some Brandy that will hide in my cupboard until wanted at Christmas. After this, I felt so virtuous saving so much money I went and bought myself a nice new Hippy style blouse that I will wear in about a month- so I can truthfully say to my suspicious husband 'what, this old thing? I've had it for AGES.' My purse and I are good at that.

But back to the food ....

First I slashed the duck breasts as recommend in a diamond pattern. This allows the marinade to penetrate the meat and also helps the excess fat render from the skin.

Mix the wine, brandy and honey. Dip the breasts in the mix and sprinkle with the herbs as suggested, or pop the herbs in along with the meat, and marinate overnight.

Prepare the eggplant. I decided to leave the peices larger than the cubes recommended, as I thought it would present better on the plate. What with the fruit and the nuts, there already seemed a lot of fussiness going on. I sprinkled the larger pieces with salt and left them for about 20 mins to disgorge any bitterness, then patted them dry and adding them to the pan with the duck breasts.

Place the duck skin side down in a dry, cold pan. This is really good to remember, having the pan cold to start will help the fat render and the skin to crisp better without the meat over cooking. And there’s really no need at all for oiling the pan as the duck will generously supply more than enough of its own.

Be really watchful at this point as the sugars from the wine and honey will burn easily. There’s a fine line between burnished and burnt! The eggplant will go gorgeously silky and brown from all the ducky goodness in the pan, and have an amazing flavour- but don’t consider this the healthy part of the dinner as it sponges up plenty of that rendered fat.

Once the duck is cooked to your liking, pull it and the eggplant out of the pan and let it rest somewhere warm.

Drain out the fat, and place the marinade, fruit and nuts in the pan back on the heat. To plump the fruit nicely, cover the pan with a lid and they’ll steam away while absorbing lots of the flavour. I loved how the herby earthiness of the lavender and thyme managed to penetrate the fruit. Once they’re fat and juicy, take the lid off and let the liquid reduce down to a sauce consistency. At this point I added a tablespoon of butter to add some gloss and richness and any juices that released from the resting duck. They are the ‘essence’ of the meat after all, and it’s such a shame to let them go to waste.

To present, I chose a rectangle plate that would follow the line of the eggplant and the shape of the duck breast. A bigger one would have been better, but I had to work with what I’ve got. I placed a slice of eggplant in the middle of the plate, then sliced my duck at an angle and fanned it over the eggplant. This way it showed off both the crispy skin and the pink blush inside as well. I arranged some of the fruit over the meat without covering it all, and placed on a few nuts for extra interest and shape contrast. The sauce would be nice presented in a little jug at the table so each diner could add their own, but I drizzled it around the arrangement of food and it worked OK too. A piece of lavender and thyme on top would have been the finishing touch and reinforced the flavour profile- you’ll just have to imagine it this time!

What did I think of this dish?

Personally I prefer Asian style flavours and don't cook much French inspired food- unless it's dessert. Unfortunetly this recipe was just way too sweet for me and could almost be counted as dessert itself! The duck played second fiddle to the cloying syrup surrounding it. Fresh fruit would have added a much needed touch of tartness, but I still don't think it would be enough.

I mentioned earlier adapting a dish.

In this case, I would adapt the flavours to my palate by halving or even chopping the amount of honey by a third and swapping out the sticky wine for a dry white. A touch of stock or jus in the sauce would also tone it down a little. I think this way the lovely nuances of the lavender, the savoury notes of the thyme and lovely brown bits on the duck skin would all blend into a harmonious whole, instead of being a one-man-band of sticky sweetness.

A bit of further adaptation and I think I could make this into a dish that would appeal more to my taste, and be one I would happily share with friends for dinner.

Sorry Stephane, I hope you don’t mind!

Well Readers, what do you think of sweet sauce for a savoury dish? And what flavour profile do you like the most?

Now to the interesting bit Lovelies- another give away!
This time it's a SCANPAN, Soft Touch Spectrum,Santoku Knife. A funky bright green colour to liven up your kitchen and a cool sheaf to keep it nicely covered over when not in use and sitting in your drawer. Not too big, it's just the right size for preparing the evenings veggies, or taking on a picnic to chop the salad or slice the sausages.

To go in draw, just leave a comment- can't make it any simpler can I? The winner shall be chosen yet again by my patented and highly envied Cat Raffle Method. See this post for details, http://intolerantchef.blogspot.com/2011/06/beautilicious-blueberry-souffle.html
I distance myself from any feline fancies, but wish you the best. May the Fur be with you!


  1. Thanks for sharing, looks interesting but too sweet for me.

  2. Duck for dessert huh! It reminds me of the b'stilla which is savoury but dusted in icing sugar! :D

  3. Oooh, love the eggplant cooked in duck fat! I am going to try that on it's own as a side dish, maybe drizzled with pomegranate molasses. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. What does Duck actually taste like? I've only encountered it once, at my MIL's for Christmas lunch and it had gone off. Yeuck, even the dog wouldn't eat it!

    I want the knife! pwease!


  5. This looks SUPER good! I do enjoy eating duck very much and always love to find new duck recipes :). Thanks for sharing this !

  6. Interesting! Would you equate the sauce with my take on hoisin sauce on Moo Shu? It needs it but a little goes a long ways.

    Oh! And please don't put my name in the hat for the knife the shipping to the US would be outrageous.

  7. i really like sweet sauces, pity it went a little too far! thanks for your duck cooking tips :)

  8. I've never cooked duck, but I have bought a pack of duck fat... potatoes cooked in duck fat?...mmmmmmm :-)
    I like the sweetness in middle-eastern food, but I suspect your (Stephanie's) recipe would be too much for me too

  9. Your post title certainly made me do a double take - what the?! haha..

  10. I'm not a huge fan of duck. Only occasionally do I enjoy a peking duck pancake. Duck fat potatoes, however, now that's a different story!! Interesting flavour combo here, very interesting! I love seeing dishes made that I would never think to make!
    Heidi xo

  11. I stumbled upon your blog and am thoroughly enjoying it so far. Thanks for all the interesting and do-able recipes.
    I hope I win the draw!

  12. Oooh, that does seem sweet, but good on you for trying! I know duck is often paired with fruit, but still.. :)

    Don't put me in the draw, darling friend - you're always sending me stuff! xx

  13. What a strange dish! To be honest, I'm not sure if I would like it ... I like my savory foods to be savory. ;)

  14. I've never eaten duck before - is that sad? Most probably, but you make it seem so tasty :D even with all the ingredients that seem a bit OTT if you ask me. but, maybe I'll have someone else [not myself] give this a try!

  15. Hello Lovelies! I hope you checked out Murdoch Books great challenge with all the Frenchy-French recipes by Stephane and great reviews by real people just like us.
    I'll reveal the new knife owner with the next post (after A Bit on The Side) so stay tuned!

    Simcha- it's always interesting to try new things

    Lorraine- I've never tried that but always wanted too. I think I need pidgeons for that don't I?

    Christie- I have a great pomegranate balsamic that would work well with that too, thanks for the idea!

    Michelle- Yuck! Was the summer heat just too much for it huh?

    CookingGallery- it's such a lovely meat when done right isn't it?

    Judy- I love hoisin sauce too. And don't worry, when the paw has spoken who am I to disagree, wherever it has to be posted!

    Muppy- I like sweet sauces too, but a little goes a long, long way :)

    Janet- Duck fat potatoes..... YUMMMMMMM! You'll never go back!

    Ladybird- I thought it would be intriguing :)

    Heidi- Peking duck is great isn't it? I picked a few that were different on purpose!

    Lindsay- Thanks I'm glad you like it! Unfortunately the decision lies with the mood of the paw, not me :)

    Celia- Just a bit too over the top! And anytime sweetie, you're worth it!

    Kath- There are other great ways to enjoy duck if you want it more savory, don't use the honey! Thanks and the Pork Post coming soon with consultant chef, Kath!

    Gabriella- You must remedy that soon! Maybe try a more 'standard' version of plain cooking for your first ducky dish :)

    Hope you have a lovely weekend Readers, we'll be curled up around the heater most of it, how about you?