I love the richness and gaminess of duck. It has a reputation for being luxurious and hard to cook, but it’s not really. The method here is what we used when I was head chef at Pearl, Geoff Lindsay’s restaurant in Richmond, Melbourne. Geoff and Martin Boetz, who I worked with at Longrain, have been two of my biggest influences.
Similar to Peking duck, the skin is marinated in sugar, which helps it caramelise nicely in the oven. And the roasting tin is filled with coconut milk and whatever aromatic scraps you have on hand, such as makrut lime leaves, ginger, lemongrass and Thai basil. It’s a bit like a bouquet garni.
Once the duck is cooked, this coconut milk can be reused in the curry itself. The flavour from the duck and the aromatics really take it to the next level.
This is my favourite curry sauce to make and eat, and it’s been on the menu at Coda since we opened in 2009. People still rate it, and I have to cook it everywhere I go; otherwise they say, “Where’s your duck curry? Where’s your duck curry? Where’s your duck curry?”
Yellow duck curry, by Adam D’Sylva, co-owner and executive chef at Coda and Tonka, Melbourne
Prep time: 10–15 minutes, plus overnight marinating
Cook time: 2 hours
375ml (1½ cups) soy sauce, preferably Healthy Boy brand
1 tsp white peppercorns, crushed
3 tbsp caster sugar, plus extra if needed
4 free-range duck marylands
400ml can coconut milk
1 red banana chilli
3 makrut lime leaves
1 lemongrass stalk, white part only, bruised and roughly chopped
270ml coconut cream
100g palm sugar, shaved
100ml fish sauce
200ml chicken stock
Yellow curry paste
1 red onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic
6 coriander roots, scraped and cleaned
4cm piece of turmeric, peeled and chopped
4cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
8 dried long red chillies deseeded, soaked in hot water for 20–30 minutes and drained
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp white peppercorns
2 tbsp sea salt
Pickled krachai (available in jars at Asian grocers)
Crispy fried shallots (available at Asian grocers)
Steamed white rice
Place the soy sauce, crushed white peppercorns and sugar in a non-reactive (glass, ceramic or stainless steel) container, then whisk to dissolve the sugar. Taste the marinade – it should taste more sweet than salty, so add more sugar if needed. Add the duck, skin side down, then seal with a lid and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight.
The next day, preheat the oven to 150°C.
Place the duck in a snug-fitting roasting tin, skin side up. Pour in one of the cans of coconut milk, along with the banana chilli, lime leaves and lemongrass. Roast for 1.5 hours.
Meanwhile, to make the curry paste, place the onion, garlic, coriander roots, turmeric and ginger in a heavy-based saucepan or wok over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of water and cook, stirring, for 5–6 minutes, until the ingredients are lightly coloured and soft. Add a little more water if they start to burn – you want the ingredients to caramelise, which will give the finished curry depth and added flavour.
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add the drained chillies. Set aside to cool, then blitz in a food processor for 3–4 minutes to a smooth, reddish-yellow paste. If the paste is not wet enough, add a little water to help move the blades.
To make the spice mix, wet the coriander seeds, then toast over medium heat in a small heavy-based frying pan or wok, for 2–3 minutes, until fragrant and lightly coloured. Set aside. Repeat with the cumin seeds, followed by the fennel seeds. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the toasted seeds and white peppercorns to a fine powder, then stir through the curry paste along with the salt until combined.
To make the curry, place a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the coconut cream, bring to the boil and cook for 8–10 minutes, until the cream splits. Add 100g of the curry paste and fry for 2–3 minutes, until fragrant and you can smell the spices. Add the palm sugar and fish sauce and cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Pour in the remaining can of coconut milk and the stock, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 20–25 minutes, until reduced slightly.
Divide the sauce among four shallow bowls and add the duck. Garnish with coriander leaves, pickled krachai and crispy fried shallots and serve with white rice on the side.
Left-over curry paste will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
This is an extract from the Broadsheet cookbook Home Made, which features 80 diverse recipes for home cooking, sourced from Melbourne's best cooks, chefs and restaurants. Published by Plum, the book is available for $49.95 at shop.broadsheet.com.au