Coriander Duck Breast with Confit Winter Veg

As much as I am incredibly passionate about this blog and love talking about food, for the past couple months I've been a little preoccupied. We've been talking about it for almost six years but the demolition and reconstruction of our semi-detached house has kicked off in earnest. I mean, seriously... it has kicked off.

So now that we've settled into the rental I finally got time to fire up the K-mart induction cooktop (did I mention the kitchen in the rental SUCKS?!) and do some cooking. As we're in the first month of winter here in Sydney I thought I would do something with winter veg. The result? Coriander duck breast with confit winter veg. And it's freakin' tasty!

You'll need:

  • 2 duck breasts (Thomas Dux normally has these)
  • 8 baby carrots, tops on
  • 2 small squash
  • 6 small potatoes
  • 8 brussel sprouts
  • pink sea salt
  • ground coriander
  • smoked paprika
  • ground peppercorns
  • olive oil
  • duck fat (also at Thomas Dux)

Start off by heating a fan forced oven to 200C. At the same time, chop off most of the tops of the baby carrots, leaving a small bit of the green stalk in tact. Quarter the squash and halve the potatoes. Also cut the brussel sprouts in half. Add a good splash of olive oil into a roasting pan and add the veg. Add a generous amount of salt, ground pepper, paprika, and six teaspoons of duck fat. Put the pan into the oven once it's at temperature.

After 20 minutes, pull the pan out and toss the vegetables and then place back into the oven. Heat a skillet on medium-high heat on the stove. 

Score the duck breasts in a criss-cross fashion, cutting only through the fat and leaving the meat untouched. Sprinkle sea salt, pepper, and ground coriander onto each breast and then rub into the cuts. Add to the pan and cook, skin side down, for 5 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional minute with the skin up.

Remove the veg from the oven and place a roasting rack on top of the pan. Place the breasts on top of the rack and pour the rendered fat over the breasts. Place the pan and rack back into the oven for 7 minutes. Remove and serve!

This is an easy but VERY tasty dish for those cold winter nights. Now excuse me, I'm off to pick out down lights and tiles. Gotta love a renovation!

Bad Ass? Great Chef, Good Guy

When I started this blog five years back, I was just looking for a way to express my love of food, share some of the things I was learning, and find some other like-minded foodies. Since then, I've experienced all that but one thing I didn't expect was that I would discover just how friendly and helpful some of the well known leaders of the food industry truly are. Neil Perry did a guest recipe very, very early on. Mark Hix jumped in recently with a cool chicken recipe. I even discovered a new, young chef from South Africa who simply wanted to share his recipes.

Through everything, the biggest thing I've learned is to simply ask. When you're truly interested in someone's interests and passions, there's a good chance that they will jump in and share (and sometimes help) if you just ask. Back in 2013, I put myself up for auction to help Assistance Dogs Australia and the bids for my services for a day reached $5,000. The winning team threw me a curveball by asking if I'd cook a degustation meal for the thirteen people in the bidding group.

I was developing my menu and one thing I really wanted to do was to make compressed fruit with cream and herbs. Firstly, I hadn't be able to make it before and secondly, I knew the group would have never tasted anything like it. So I put a call out on Twitter - who had a chamber sealer that I could use? To my surprise, one of the chefs who was rising in popularity threw open his restaurant doors and said I could use their equipment. That chef? Colin Fassnidge.

Since that time, Colin and I have followed each other on Twitter. I have seen his partner in crime, Carla, chef at his other restaurant 4fourteen, a couple times at the Omnivore world tour. And I've dropped into the Four in Hand a couple times. Having dinner there recently, I sent a couple tweets about my excitement and then dove into the amazing food. What I never expected was that the waiter brought out dessert, suggested by the chef, as someone was a big "fan". Very cool. So when we finished I made it a point to thank Colin for his hospitality and said hello in the kitchen. On the ride home, I was a few beers down, and had the courage to ask Colin by Twitter if he'd be up to doing an interview for I'd say I was surprised when he said yes, but I really wasn't, given how helpful he'd been before. Now I had to prepare!

The reality is that Colin has been interviewed FAR more times than I've been an interviewer. And, as much as I am always amazed by how many people read the blog, it's pretty small-fries when you compare to coverage for My Kitchen Rules and the like. But I wanted to know about food and I knew there was a lot to learn.

So, tell me about your love of food. What does food mean to you? What gives you the most enjoyment about cooking?

"I got my love of cooking from my family back in Ireland. My dad cooked everything for our family of five. Offal, meats, stews. I knew I wanted to be a chef early on"

You started in Oxford, working for Raymond Blanc. What did you learn early on that has stuck with you until now?

"I began by working for a chef in Dublin. He promised if I stayed there two years that he’d get me work with Raymond Blanc. I learned to taste, taste, and taste again. Home cooks don’t taste enough but they don’t even season enough to begin with. I also learned to clean all the time. Never stop cleaning!"

You moved to Sydney in 1999. How has the food scene changed in Sydney during that time?

"It was so focused on fine dining. I spent time in San Francisco and it was more relaxed and more accessible. About when the Olympics hit in 2000 people started to experiment and do some interesting things.

I was in Paris for Omnivore World Tour a while back and let me tell you, we have some of the best food and restaurants in the world. We are truly world class here in Sydney."

Which food trends do you think are overdone and/or overhyped?

"The reviewers are overhyped. They’re not coming up with anything new. And I’m not about eating ants or witchetty grubs. Just good food. I visited the best restaurant in the world, Noma, and I was so relaxed and loved the experience."

What’s most rewarding about running your two restaurants, Four in Hand, and 4Fourteen?

"I love running my own restaurants. Carla runs 4Fourteen but I love the closed kitchen in Four in Hand – I can swear and carry on! Seriously, I love it that I can do what I want and what I love. I may have hard days but at the end of the day I love what I do."

What’s your favourite dish on the menu at the moment?

"Recently I just did a Hawkesbury squid recipe with some gorgeous onions I sourced locally. It’s the simplest thing but I love that. And that’s a cool dish… that’s until I replace it with another fresh, simple dish."

What annoys you the most about running the restaurants?

"I can’t find good chefs or waiters. Or hardly anyone who can cook, for that matter!"

When you’re home, what do you love to cook the most? What do your family most enjoy?

"I just cooked dinner for my wife and girls before I came in tonight. I cooked soy chicken in a gorgeous broth. It’s not really Irish but I love cooking simple, gorgeous things."

If I was coming to a BBQ at your house, what would be on the menu? 

"Just recently I cooked a couple sheep legs with my mates, stuffed them with herbs, and placed them on a few bricks on the BBQ. I let them slow roast over a low flame for hours."

What are some indispensable skills that guys should have in the kitchen?

"Learn how to cook a good roast! There’s simply no excuse for not learning how to cook well with all the information available in books, TV, and the internet. Shows like Masterchef, which are done well. Seriously, it’s not just a woman’s job to cook well in the kitchen."

You’re a big proponent of good nose-to-tail cooking. What’s one overlooked ingredient that people should learn how to use in the kitchen?

"Liver and onions. Cook a couple ham hocks and then turn them into pea and ham soup. You don’t have to go too exotic but even tripe can be good."

What is your recommendation on the must-have kitchen tool? And do you have a favourite cookbook to recommend (other than your own, obviously)?

"Get a couple great knives and keep them super sharp. A chef’s cooking knife and a chopping knife. Also, make sure you get a Microplane. It’s indispensable. For good cookbooks, anything by Andrew McConnell. I also love Jason Atherton’s book, Maze. I still refer to that book now and then."

What are the qualities of a perfect date restaurant and meal? Do you have any old favourites for special occasions like anniversaries?

"Nothing particular. But I’m going to Attica soon with my wife and I’m really looking forward to that. I know Ben well and he does simply amazing things. He’s in a league by himself."

I have one personal question. You’re an ambassador/fund raiser for FTW, which is focused in youth suicide prevention. I lost my brother to suicide at 25. What makes you passionate about the cause?

"I’ve lost people close to me, friends, a cousin and others. It’s an epidemic. And I have given my time to help the Aussie farmers affected by drought. You can’t believe how hard those guys have it and where it brings them when they can’t make a living from their farms.

The food industry also draws people who may be at risk, either through their upbringing or drugs. It’s great for young kids to come in, work well, show discipline, and learn the industry. It can make a difference in their lives."

What was it like to produce a cookbook (Four Kitchens)?

"It was hard. I had to dust off all my little recipe books, some all the way back from my time with Raymond Blanc. They had dirt, chocolate, and wine all over them! And recipes require precision. There was a lot of testing and learning and refinement. But the content was all about what I cook for friends and family. My favourite part was spending the ten days taking photos of all the dishes. The photos were beautiful."

What’s the final tip you could give guys who want to cook better?

"Eat out! Buy the cheapest ingredients, practice, and make mistakes! You won’t learn how to fillet a fish from a book, you’re only going to learn by doing it on your own, messing up, and trying again. The interesting thing about my book is that it gave me the opportunity to rectify small mistakes in my recipes. Trial and error. Just get cooking!"



There you go. Just get cooking! I think that's the thing I really took away from my chat with Colin - it doesn't have to be flash or fancy, it just has to be good. Season, taste, clean, repeat.

Many thanks to Colin for his time and to the Four in Hand for hosting me. If you haven't dropped in for dinner, you must! Grab the bone marrow and crab with sorrel leaves - trust me.

Four in Hand Hotel

105 Sutherland Street
Paddington NSW 2021

(02) 9362 1999

My Kitchen Rules

Mon - Thurs, 7:30pm
Channel 7

Four Kitchens Cookbook

ISBN: 9780857982346
Published: 03/03/2014
Extent: 240 pages

FTW (representing Suicide Prevention Australia)

The Great Cookbook Debate (or Swindle?)

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram (or even here, for that matter) you'll know that I have a mild cookbook addiction. Well, to be honest, I have a serious cookbook addiction. So much so that as our renovations are imminent, I've been effectively banned from buying any more for the foreseeable future! But this past Christmas I was asked what I wanted for my $100 Kris Kringle family gift and I couldn't resist - I wanted a cookbook! 


The cookbook I had my eye on for a while was Peter Gilmore's Organum. I love his food at Quay and really wanted to get my hands on his gorgeous new tome. So the natural question from the gift-buyer was, where to pick it up? And that, my friends, is when I started to get a bit worked up. I checked my local bookstore, the Constant Reader. Price: $100. Then I checked Amazon. Price: $88, with shipping, and that's with the atrocious Aussie dollar at the moment. Well, let's see what charges. Price: $67, with shipping. Wait a second... this is an Aussie Chef, from an Aussie publisher, and it's CHEAPER to buy it overseas and get it shipped in? I could possibly see it when the dollar was stronger than the US, but now??

My gift-giver waited until the last moment so ended up buying the book at a local store for $100. I got it home, opened it up, and found that there was an iPad addendum app. Yay! And then I discovered it was another $8. This is completely insane. I had to talk to the publisher.

That evening I sent Murdoch Book a couple tweets and an email, asking questions like: "Why do you charge $100 for a cookbook and then add $8 to get the iPad addendum app?" The answer was that they don't publish the app, and therefore don't control its pricing. That ignores the fact that the app references the book throughout and the book had a promo flyer for the app. I also asked things like, "Why the disparity?". Keep in mind that the price was $57 at the time overseas. I said that consumers would be feeling confused at best, ripped off at worst. I kindly said I'd look forward to their reply.

A couple days later, the reply came. "Thank you for your email. I've passed this onto our Sales & Marketing Director who will assess if it's appropriate to offer a comment." And that was that, no further reply. So clearly the publishers simply want us to ignore the disparity and the fact that we're paying massive premiums for cookbooks that are published here and feature our chefs and restaurants. How pervasive was this? I did a little research.

A couple days later, the reply came. "Thank you for your email. I've passed this onto our Sales & Marketing Director who will assess if it's appropriate to offer a comment." And that was that, no further reply. So clearly the publishers simply want us to ignore the disparity and the fact that we're paying massive premiums for cookbooks that are published here and feature our chefs and restaurants. How pervasive was this? I did a little research.

Quay, Peter Gilmore - Bookstores, $94. Overseas (incl shipping), $58

Marque, Mark Best - Bookstores, $49. Overseas (incl shipping), $39

Rockpool Bar & Grill, Neil Perry - Bookstores, $80. Overseas (incl shipping), $66

Origin, Ben Shewry - Bookstores, $95. Overseas (incl shipping), $67

I could go on. Even with the numbskull idea of adding GST to sub-$1,000 purchases the differential doesn't add up. What gives? Do you think this is fair? Do you work in publishing and can add some background to the conversation? I just don't get it. And I certainly won't buy any books locally until it changes.

Scallop Sashimi, Shiitake, Chorizo

If you're like me, getting back into the swing of things in the new year has been hard. I returned to work just after the holidays only to find that the office was a ghost town. A lot to do, but not many people around to get things done. That might be an indictment of how much *I* actually do, but that's another story.

So on the Friday of my week back I decided to work from home. There was a lot of prep and reading to do, and for the first time in ages I didn't have any meetings! As soon as the Gourmet Female heard she demanded that I cook dinner and that she be regaled with a massive seafood fest. Enter my riff on a Dan Hong recipe, scallop sashimi with shiitake, chorizo, and spring onion.

This recipe is dead easy. The hardest part is finding an Asian market for the ingredients... And the only cooked component is a chorizo... Which can be done a few hours in advance... So you have NO excuse for not making someone an amazing seafood dish this summer!

This serves two people. You'll need:

  • 1 chorizo
  • 1 spring onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 raw scallops, sliced in thirds
  • 3 small shiitake mushrooms, very thinly sliced
  • 2 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 1/4 tbsp shiro-dashi
  • 3 1/4 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Fry or BBQ the chorizo until done. Put aside to cool.

Mix the sesame oil, shiro-dashi, soy sauce, honey, and lemon juice and whisk together to combine. Slice the cooled chorizo thinly.

Place the scallops around the plate. Add the shiitake mushrooms, chorizo, and spring onion. Pour the dressing around the plate and serve! Now don't you look like the Gourmet Male?!