“When a girl tries to treat herself, someone else takes advantage”
The reason why this post starts with the phrase is because of what I’ve been wondering about why I cook. Yes, I love eating for sure, but would I cook the way I’ve been doing if it wasn’t for another person who enjoys it more than the person who actually cooks? You wouldn’t definitely go through roasting a whole duck for 4 hours just for yourself, would you? Well, I would have in my early years when I started getting into cooking just for the sake of experiment and excitement. And when you see the person enjoying the food more than you do, that’s the reward for a hard work. Like the slow roasted duck. Mr.O loved it so much that he brought home another whole duck. Sometimes I feel like being an Ottoman chef working for the sultan in Topkapi Palace. That’s why my mum always warned me growing up not to tell a guy I’m a good cook. And the older I get, the more I think of all the wisdom mum told me.
This is our family portrait I treasure very much, and I printed, framed and hung it up on the wall, but Mr.O doesn’t appreciate it as much as I do. I am an artist who likes things that are subtle. Don’t you like it? Can you guess what’s happening in the photo?
I am also an artist who likes things exotic, earthy and erotic, things like saffron for example. When I discovered that there was a city called Safronbolu in Turkey where Turkish saffron is cultivated, I was very excited, however, I haven’t got around to visiting it yet. But there is Turkish delight (lokum) covered in saffron threads and the city is famous for that as well as some beautiful sceneries. I searched for good photos to share but to no avail. You would think there are many posts out there but all seem to be tour guide sites rather than personal blogs except the linked one above.
I have the real Iranian saffron bought some time ago and was also given some from Mr.O’s mum. Saffron is hardly used in Turkish cuisine except some parts far in the east. My palate remembers the lovely Persian Saffron Rice, Paella, and Bouillabaisse. And yellow happens to be my favourite colour and it’s believed that everything yellow has anti-inflammatory properties. The idea of making saffron rice came after I made the duck, which was roasted with oriental spices, not quite Peking duck, but similar.
Duck meat isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I love it and that’s what makes me happy every time I visit France. There’s no shortage of duck. When I visit Korea, I also eat duck as much as I can. If you ever visit, don’t miss the chance to eat the duck baked covered in yellow mud. The highlight of roasted duck is the crispy skin, isn’t it? To get the maximum crispiness, it needs glazing.
After plucking and cleaning, you prick the skin with the tip of a knife or scissors all around as many times as possible – until you get tired of it – and the reason is to release as much fat as possible. Then, you rub the skin and the inside with sea salt. Sometimes people stuff the inside with herbs, vegetables or rice, etc. But my aim is to achieve crispy skin and preserve the fat for later. So I skipped the stuffing and threw it onto the wire rack in the oven with the roasting pan underneath, with the breast side down – fat and liquid will flow out of the cavity so it’s better to start with the breast side down.
Now let it bake for 3 hours at 160’c while turning it over after each hour and you’ll go crazy at every tick of time, smelling the duck fat. While waiting, you make a glaze by combining ground ginger, clove, fennel or anise seeds, cinnamon and pepper – or you can use five spices – and mixing the spice mix into 2 Tbsp of soy sauce and 2 Tbsp of plum sauce ( I used pomegranate sauce, of course! ) and I also added a 1 tsp of orange marmalade, finely chopped as well as a dash of white wine, since I don’t keep rice wine.
When it’s done, take out the roasting pan and you will see lots of fat and some gunk at the bottom. Carefully, pour out only the clear fat into a container, not plastic, using a strainer, and let it cool. You can make good uses of it in cooking and it keeps in the fridge up to 3 weeks.
In the 4th hour, heat up the oven to 200’c and baste the duck with the glaze and roast for 20 minutes, then turn it over and baste it again and roast for another 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.
In the last hour, I made my favourite Saffron Carrot Rice, which is a combination of the Persian and Indian rice from my memories. In some Indian restaurants, they serve rice mixed with finely grated carrot and I found it as a nice presentation, let alone the flavour. It’s an excellent way of making rice when you’re on a low carb diet. Anyway, I’m sure you’re going to love my rice recipe, which I’ll post at the end.
I whipped up a quick dipping sauce ( lemon juice, minced garlic, fish sauce, chilli pepper, coriander and a little bit of water and pomegranate sauce) to go with the duck as I saw some fresh coriander I got from a local farmers’ market, which was a great discovery. Now I can enjoy some South Asian dishes! Mr.O loved the dipping sauce so much because he sometimes misses South Asian food and it’s hard to eat in Istanbul. Oh my god, the crunching sound of the skin, the exotic sauce, and the aromas of the rice….. what a feast!!
Not a feast without wine, is it? What about a nice glass of Büyülübağ Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot 2010? I generally like their wines and I liked this one, too; dark fruit, chocolate, balanced and firm tannins.
As I was writing this, Mr.O was talking to his friends, who have recently returned from a trip to the US with an unpleasant memory of their first Chinese food experience, to invite them to a duck feast. Whether it be his another excuse to have the duck again or to share the pleasure with his beloved friends, it looks like I’m going to have to do this all over again. But guess what? I’m smiling…..:)
Saffron Carrot Rice
Ingredients ( serves 4)
3 cups basmati rice ( or long grain)
half brown onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp duck fat or vegetable oil
1 carrot, finely grated
1 whole clove
a little sea salt ( 1/4 tsp)
2 pinches of saffron, infused in 1 cup of warm water for 20 mins
1. Soak the rice in warm water for 20-30 mins and drain the rice in a colander.
2. Rinse the rice a bit more under warm water to get rid of as much starch as you can.
3. Lightly fry the onions and the clove with oil and add the rice with the saffron water and an additional cup of water.
4. Boil it over high heat and when it starts to bubble, reduce the heat to the lowest possible and simmer with the lid on for 10 mins. (Do not open the lid to check. It cooks fine. If it’s too soggy, I have a tip for you to fix it up.)
5. Throw in the carrot and gently toss it around using a spatula.
6. Put the lid back on and wait until needed.
If you want to master the cooking Persian Rice, you have this post (How to Make the Perfect Persian Rice) describing every step in great detail.