Guest Post: Duck breast in a red wine and marmalade sauce, spicy puy lentils and potatoes dauphinoise.

Having been rather busy of late, getting myself sorted for the impending postgrad onslaught, I haven’t had time to put together a post (although I have a nice recipe waiting to be written up for you fine folk when I get a sec). I have however had a reader’s contribution from an old uni friend Felix.

Take it away Felix, this recipe looks great!

  • Guest post: Felix Slavin
Felix's Duck

Felix’s Duck

I was served this, as a main course, at the Newton Hotel in Nairn. I couldn’t believe the flavours that were coming out. I recommend everyone tries this dish. It’s amazing. The sauce and the red cabbage are two additions I made to the dish, but I think complement the other components very well.

  • Duck breast in a red wine and marmalade sauce, spicy puy lentils and potatoes dauphinoise

4 x Duck breast (trim excess fat)

For the spicy lentils:

–          1 red onion (finely diced)

–          1 – 2 red chillies (seeds removed, finely diced)

–          ginger (finely diced)

–          2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

–          1 sweet red pepper (finely diced)

–          1 ½ tsp ground coriander

–          1 tsp ground cumin

–          1 tsp curry powder

–          soy sauce (for deglazing)

–          2 tbsp tomato ketchup

–          1 – 2 tbsp brown sauce

–          1 – 2 tbsp honey

–          400g puy lentils (brown lentils)

–          Large bunch of fresh coriander

For the potatoes dauphinoise:

–          Knob of butter for greasing

–          2lb 40z waxy potatoes such as Desiree

–          ¼ pint whole milk

–          ¼ pint double cream

–          1 garlic clove

–          2 sprigs thyme

–          Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

–          Handful of freshly grated parmesan

For the red cabbage:

–          1 red cabbage

–          1 onion (finely sliced)

–          1 bramley apple (grated)

–          4 tbsp red wine vinegar

–          2 tbsp muscavado sugar

–          ½ tsp ground allspice

–          ½ tsp grated nutmeg

–          2 tbsp orange marmalade (alternatively use red currant jelly)

For the jus:

–          250ml red wine

–          Pinch of salt

–          1 star anise

–          1 – 1 ½ tbsp marmalade

–          Splash of balsamic vinegar

–          Juices from the duck breast when resting


For the potatoes:

Heat oven to 160c. Line an 8 inch square brownie tin with greaseproof paper and then butter the paper. Peel and slice the potatoes to the width of a pound coin. Pat dry. Pour the milk and cream into a pan, add the garlic and thyme. Heat to boiling point, cool a little and strain into a jug. Sprinkle with nutmeg and keep warm. Layer half the potatoes in the tin overlapping the slices. Pour over half the liquid and finish layering the slices, then add the rest of the liquid and scatter over the cheese. Bake for 1 – 11/4 hours until the potatoes are tender and the top is golden. Leave to stand for 5 minutes before serving.

For the Red cabbage:

Melt 25g of butter in a large pan and add the onions. Cook for 5 mins. Then add the spices, cabbage, red wine vinegar, sugar, and 100ml of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hr. Season to taste and then add the marmalade or jelly for glazing.

For the Duck breast:

Preheat the oven to 180degrees. Trim any excess fat from the breasts and score the skin to help the cooking process. Once prepared place the duck breasts and the excess skin in a cold frying pan, set to a high heat and season the duck breasts with salt and pepper. No oil is required. Allow the skin to crisp up until golden brown for about 3 – 5 minutes. Turn the breasts over and then place into the oven for 8 – 12 minutes depending on how good your oven is. When cooked leave to rest for as long as possible (roughly 10 – 15 mins). Keep aside the duck fat from the pan for making roast potatoes on another occasion and keep the resting juices from the duck for the sauce. Slice the breasts into strips.

For the red wine and marmalade sauce:

Add 250ml red wine, the star anise and a pinch of salt to a sauce pan. Bring to the boil and allow for it to reduce. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar, the juices from the duck and then the marmalade. Reduce further and look for it to coat the back of the spoon.

Hi folks, Ruari again, I hope you all try out, and enjoy, Felix’s recipe. Let me/him know what you think and how it turns out by commenting below. I’d also like to get more guest recipes for future posts so if you have something you’d like to share then email it to me at with a good photo or two and I’ll stick it up some time.


Warning: contents are seriously hot and saucy!

Now, having successfully debased myself by tabloidising the blog I want to assure you that this post is morally sound. I am, of course, going to be talking about chilli sauces today. If you came here for something a little less savoury (no pun intended) then the jokes on you because even if you leave now, I’ve still got another hit. If on the other hand, you, like me, need nothing more than some soft focus pictures of spicy condiments to get you going then I can offer you both real, spicy, heat and the more metaphorical and almost equally as satisfying heat of foodporn (incidentally there is a foodporn website which I recommend for those long nights alone – here).

I had a few vouchers for Valvona and Crolla (the original Italian deli in Edinburgh for those not in the know) this week and I decided to top up my hot-box. I have been on a hunt recently, with a seemingly insatiable thirst, for the hottest chilli sauces, pastes and jams I can find. I love a bit of chilli and will order the hottest dishes I can get my hands on. It is now bordering on an obsession and so I have decided to write about it because I heard somewhere that admission is the first step (towards what?). This post, then, is a run through the bits and pieces which currently make up the hot-box with a review of each. I will also add a recipe for your own Thai birdseye chilli sauce which I resorted to making in order that it might be hot enough.

Hot Box Contents

Hot Box Contents

These are the current contents of my hot-box and this only really covers half the hot sauces brands etc I’ve tried. I still haven’t quite found the kind of mind-blowing stuff I’m after but some of these are a good start. I’m going to taste them all individually now: a teaspoon of each. I’ll let the heat develop and subside before taking a mouthful of milk and a dry cracker to kill the burn and cleanse my palate between each. I’ll be marking each condiment out of 10 on both heat (1 being an arctic winter and 10 being like reading 50 shades of grey whilst watching fellini) and flavour (1 being something found on the floor and 10 being something you’d happily lick off the floor) so the final score will be an aggregate of these two categories (a possible 20).

Might as well get cracking:

  • Encona West Indian Original Hot Pepper Sauce
Encona West Indian Original Hot Pepper Sauce

Encona West Indian Original Hot Pepper Sauce

This sauce from Encona has the mildest heat which is surprising being made from habanero and scotch bonnet. It’s a wee bit nippy at first but dies quickly giving way to a slight throb but very little overall. The flavour is good with a fair bit of spice action though so well worth a punt. It’s also easily available from most supermarkets which is a plus.

Heat: 5   Flavour: 7    Total: 12

  • Eaton’s Jamaican Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce
Eaton's Jamaican scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce

Eaton’s Jamaican scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce

A very fruity sauce with a slow build in heat but, ultimately, a slightly disappointing climax (smutty doublentendre for further tabloid effect). This sauce, as the name would suggest, is a scotch bonnet blend and has a strong chilli flavour which would imply a good amount of real pepper has gone in (rather than extract). There is, however, a slightly over-vinegary note which I’m not massively keen on.

Heat: 6   Flavour: 5   Total: 11

  • Dalgety West Indian “Extra Extra Hot” Pepper Sauce
Dalgety West Indian "Extra Extra Hot" Pepper Sauce

Dalgety West Indian “Extra Extra Hot” Pepper Sauce

A slightly bitter sauce with an instant hit of heat which subsides almost as quickly as it comes. This one says “recommended only for persons capable of consuming – EXTREMELY HOT PEPPER!” on the side but I have to be honest, this sauce barks like an Alsation but bites like an old toothless Labrador. Perhaps I am being overly harsh because of the macho tone of the bottle but the sauce needs to live up to the task you’ve set on the label… this does not.

Heat: 5   Flavour: 4   Total: 9

  • Tabasco Brand Habanero Sauce
Tabasco Brand Habanero Sauce

Tabasco Brand Habanero Sauce

Ahhh, Tabasco. A classic chilli sauce. This is the hottest of the Tabasco brand – made from habanero peppers as opposed to the regular sauce which is made from the considerably milder Tabasco pepper. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve had a fair bit of chilli already but I can feel this behind my eyes and it’s the first sauce that’s given me a beaded brow and a bit of a runny nose. The flavour is great with a whole load of ingredients including garlic, mango and Banana(!?). This is the most readily available sauce in my hot-box too.

Heat: 7   Flavour: 9   Total: 16

  • Mrs Renfro’s Ghost Pepper Salsa
Mrs Renfro's Ghost Pepper Salsa

Mrs Renfro’s Ghost Pepper Salsa

because this is a salsa it’s much more flavoursome than the others and has great juicy lumps (more of the smut) in it. The heat is a bit disappointing really considering there are ghost peppers in (the ingredients reveals only 1% with 7% jalapenos). It is still adequate though with the longest burn so far and would make a good addition to a burger or nachos.

Heat: 6  Flavour: 8   Total: 14

  • Hot-Headz Whole Dried Chipotle Chillies
Hot-Headz Whole Dried Chipotle Chillies

Hot-Headz Whole Dried Chipotle Chillies

Now, I obviously haven’t stuffed a dried chilli in my mouth but I did grind some and add them to a packet of fajita spices (lazy cooking FTW) and they made such a difference! I reckon they’d also improve a chilli con carne or any Mexican dish. Chipotle are smoked jalapeno chillis so they don’t pack a massive punch but they make up for that in flavour. These are cracking chillis and can be bought in Valvona and Crollas or online. I recommend you go out and buy some of these now.

Heat: 5   Flavour:  8   Total: 13

  • Hot-Headz Naga Deadly Hot Chilli Sauce
Hot-Headz Naga Deadly Hot Chilli Sauce

Hot-Headz Naga Deadly Hot Chilli Sauce

The hottest chilli variety in the world is reputedly the Naga. This is made from Naga chillis.

As is the character of Naga chillis, the heat in this grows slowly and steadily until my eyes are throbbing slightly again and I can feel the burn on my lips and throat. I have a slight sweat on and I’m enjoying the heat on this one. It’s not killing me but it’s pretty bloody hot. The flavour is not particularly strong but there is a good taste of ginger and garlic in there. This is a pretty good sauce!

Heat: 8  Flavour: 7  Total:15

  • Cambridge Chilli Farm Nagalade
Cambridge Chilli Farm Nagalade

Cambridge Chilli Farm Nagalade

with the heat of the last sauce still playing around the edges of my lips we meet the Naga again. Nice one…

This is a chilli jam made up with Naga chillis in big chunks. I just got one. The flavour’s good, if a little sweet, and the heat is solid. Just like the last sauce, the heat grows to a climax which I’d imagine could strip paint. This is not for the faint hearted! The chunks hang around in my mouth a bit because it’s sticky and it’s hard to escape the burn. This is the stuff!

Heat: 9 (always room to improve)  Flavour: 8   Total: 17

  • Ruari’s Thai Birdseye Chilli Sauce
Ruari's Thai Birdseye Chilli Sauce

Ruari’s Thai Birdseye Chilli Sauce

This is my own sauce and it draws on Thai flavours to make a slightly different sauce. The heat is fairly medium and after the last two is actually soothing. I will add the recipe for this below because it’s nice to make your own.

Heat: 5   Flavour: 10 (obviously)  Total: 15

I’ve now eaten quite a lot of chilli and I have a fair sweat on as well as a pair of tingling lips (enough!). I am also feeling pretty euphoric which makes sense because chilli releases endorphins. I also feel like it might hurt later on.

I hope you manage to get your hands on some good chilli sauces and if you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them!

  • Ruari’s Thai Birdseye Chilli Sauce
  1. 10 green birdseye chillis – chopped
  2. Bunch of coriander
  3. Three cloves of garlic
  4. Two inch piece of Ginger
  5. Half an onion finely sliced
  6. Three tbsp of Thai fish sauce
  7. 150ml of white rice vinegar (or distilled malt vinegar)

– place all ingredients in a pan and boil  for 5 minutes

– cool and blend until smooth

– pour into a sterilised bottle and seal

This sauce keeps for ages because of the vinegar. Add more or less chilli depending on your taste.

Hom(age) to Ken: Crispy Pork and Braised Aubergine

Hom(age), see what I did there? Ken Hom? Never mind.

I was watching a back episode of Ken Hom’s new programme this morning whilst eating breakfast and it gave me some good ideas (as well as making me want dumplings all day). This dish is inspired by my pal Ken and incorporates a few of his techniques from various recipes I’ve seen him do over the years. It’s simple but there are a few ingredients you’ll need to have. First is kecap manis which is a really sweet, thick, molassesy soy sauce (this is my favourite brand). The second ingredient is Jimmy’s Satay Sauce which is not like the thick peanutty sauces you get over chicken skewers, it is a Malaysian paste which adds a sweet and savoury note to your dishes. If you don’t have these I recommend both heartily!

The benefit of braising the aubergine, rather than frying, is that it doesn’t soak up a load of oil and in this way is slightly healthier (ignore the fact that it’s belly cut) and you get a lot of flavour without the greasiness.

Anyway, here’s the recipe:

Crispy Pork and Braised Aubergine

Crispy Pork and Braised Aubergine

  • Crispy Pork and Braised Aubergine:
  1. 500g of pork belly – sliced into bitesized chunks
  2. One whole onion – roughly chopped
  3. Three spring onions – chopped
  4. Three cloves of garlic – roughly chopped
  5. One whole red chilli – chopped
  6. One whole aubergine – diced into 1cm cubes
  7. 100ml water
  8. Two tbsp rice vinegar
  9. Two tbsp kecap manis
  10. Jimmy’s Satay Sauce
  11. One tbsp dark soy sauce
  12. One tbsp light soy sauce
  13. One tbsp of lime vinegar
  14. Handful fresh coriander
  15. Juice of half a lime (if no lime vinegar use juice of whole lime)
  16. Whole green pepper – sliced into rings

– First, and this is a Ken Hom tip, heat 2tbsp of oil in your wok until smoking and then fry the pork in batches until crispy. Remove each batch and drain in a sieve. This might seem like a hassle but it makes the pork so tender when you return it to the wok later and I promise it’s worth it!

– Once all the pork is fried and resting, add to the hot wok the onion and spring union and fry until soft. Next add the garlic and chilli and fry for a further 3 mins.

– Now add the aubergine, the pork and the water and place a lid over your wok. Allow to braise for five minutes.

– It is now time to get it going: bang in your flavours (ingredients 8-14), stir through, and replace the lid for a further three minutes.

– At this stage I’d get  some chow mein noodles on (or whatever style you prefer).

– Finally, you are ready to serve. Drain the noodles and toss in a little toasted sesame oil to stop them sticking and for a bit of rich nutty flavour. Serve the pork and aubergine over the noodles, squeeze the lime over for a bit of zing and top with the green pepper and a few sprigs of coriander.

I’ve just finished eating this and I want more… There’s something about the fatty pork belly and the salty sweetness of the kecap manis that I can’t resist. This dish contains a lot of my favourite things and is a recycled variation on all sorts of dishes I make in order to get the same things in: pork belly, kecap manis and Jimmy’s. With any one of those ingredients you can’t go wrong; with all three, you’re in heaven.

Roman Steak and Rocket (Bistecca di Manzo con Rucola)

In a bid to reassert some order over this blog I have decided to make a small post today to get back into the Monday/Friday pattern. This might be a simple dish but it’s a cracker and one which you can throw together in minutes after work.

During our summer holiday we stopped over in Rome for a few nights. being of thrifty mind (and light of pocket) we were keen to find foodie delights which, whilst stretching our waistlines, didn’t stretch our budgets. Looking through the Rough Guide book we came across Da Augusto in Trastevere which was described as an “old-timer […] serving Roman basics outside on the cobbles”. Equally importantly, “a hearty meal” would only set us back around 14 Euros with wine. We made a bee-line for the restaurant and were not disappointed. Set on a small piazza the tables are jammed into rows together outside and every seat was full with expectant diners at least 45 minutes before dinner service began or the restaurant doors were even open! The queue was constant with more discerning and hungry punters than tables.

Whilst service was patchy (ours was great but a lovely young German couple beside us didn’t get their starters until we were half-way through our mains after ordering at the same time…), The food was brilliant. Roman basics they may have been, but each dish was well flavoured, seasoned and presented sticking to the Italian dictum of simplicity and quality.

The highlight of the meal for me was the bistecca di manzo con rucola, or beef steak and rocket. The steak, so tender and juicy, is beautifully offset by the crunchy peppery rocket (or as used in the recipe below giant cress). By luck, last week I picked up a few copies of The River Cafe cook books and a recipe for the dish jumped out at me. The simple flavours marry so well together that it really needs nothing else but if, like me, you’re the hungry type, you can stick some nice boiled new potatoes on the side.

Bistecca di Manzo con Rucola

Bistecca di Manzo con Rucola

It really couldn’t be simpler:

  • Bistecca di Manzo con Rucola (serves 2)
  1. Two nice sized steaks out (roughly 250g each)
  2. Two handfuls of rocket (or some good giant cress – not the micro watercress though)
  3. Five tsp extra virgin olive oil
  4. Juice of a whole lemon
  5. One tbsp of red wine vinegar

First, flatten your steak between two sheets of clingfilm with a mallet or rolling pin. I used some good quality frying steak here but you can use a couple of sirloins if you’re feeling flush. Get them as thin as possible and then slice into thin strips.

In a jar mix the oil, lemon juice and vinegar and set aside.

Heat a griddle or heavy-based frying pan until smoking and then fry the steak in batches until browned.

dress the rocket or cress and place the steak on top.


I hope you get a chance to make this dish and that you enjoy it as much as I did. There’s real pleasure in the concise ingredients list and the few minutes taken to knock it up belie its classy flavours. This is fast food Jim, but not as we know it.

It would be a travesty if I wrote a whole post on a Roman theme without saying: ‘when in Rome’ (eat bistecca di manzo con rucola)!

Until next time…

Some summer foodie happenings.

I have finally returned from a mega-busy summer and I fully intend to tighten up my blogging discipline… starting by posting on the wrong day. Ach well, at least I’m getting something up eh? Since the last post I have been on Tiree in the Inner Hebrides and in Thurso, as well as Foodies Festival in Edinburgh. It’s been a busy time and I haven’t always had access to internet. With a bit of time I will hopefully get a bit better at using the scheduled post function.

Anyway, I thought I’d try to condense all that into a single post about the last wee while told through food.

Tiree was phenomenal! The weather was amazing and we spent most days biking around the island and swimming in the sea (not to mention watching all the Olympics that we could get our eyes on!). Take my advice on this one and visit if you get a chance, if you like the outdoors you won’t be disappointed. We ate well with different teams cooking food each night and a mega BBQ to finish the week. I had such a good time that I forgot to take any photos of food and so unfortunately you’ll just have to use your imagination.

In between Tiree and Thurso we went to Foodies Festival in Inverleith park in Edinburgh. Following the standard food festival format of producers’ stands, chefs demonstrations and plenty opportunity to eat and drink everything from the best of Scottish cheese and fresh local bread to oysters and champagne. I achieved a long-awaited foodie first and knocked back a big ol’ oyster with a touch of Tabasco, fully expecting it to be foul. I couldn’t have been more wrong; the ozone freshness with the heat of the chilli was a delight and a few chews of the salty-sweet flesh later it was gone and I was converted. Also, luckily, the aphrodisiac effect didn’t seem to grab me and I was able to carry on enjoying the festival without any lascivious episodes.

It was great to see so many local producers showcasing the freshest quality ingredients. A personal highlight was fresh smoked kippers:

Upright smoke cabinet

Upright smoke cabinet

Pictured above is an upright cabinet but we ate kippers from an even more traditional smoker dug deep into the ground and covered with wet burlap sacks:

Traditional underground smoker

Traditional underground smoker

The fish was beautifully tender and naturally oily. Real smoked fish doesn’t have that acrid flavour or ungodly yellow colour that you get from the artificial rubbish so get your chops round the good stuff if you’ve got the option.

Whilst at the festival we did a Malasian cooking class for free which included two dishes and provided a tasty and thrifty lunch-time meal. I’m including the recipe here and I recommend it highly. We used a special piece of kit for the pancakes but if you move quickly enough in tight spirals you could probably use a piping bag on the thinnest nozzle you’ve got.

Malaysian chicken curry and crispy spiral pancakes

Malaysian chicken curry and crispy spiral pancakes

Here’s a pic of Norman Musa and me with his book Malaysian Food: A Selection of My Favourite Dishes and The Inspiration Behind Them: 

Norman Musa

Norman Musa

Finally we nipped up to Thurso to visit family. My auntie Ros has just opened a lovely wee tea room called Cups selling some of the best cakes and traybakes around! Cups is the culmination of a lifetime of amateur baking and the baked goods are a clear indication of this commitment. The ethos of the cafe is right up my street too: local produce, high quality ingredients and a bit of fun with flavours. The Haggis and cheddar toasted sandwich on fresh Orkney corn bread hits the spot and the homemade soups will warm the bones after a brisk stroll along the beach to the beautiful ex-chapel which houses Cups. The cake and traybake selection is vast and the variety means that there’s something for every palate from the sumptuously fruity paradise slice or the coconut and cherry sponge to brownies or scones with homemade jam and clotted cream.

Cups' cakes

Cups’ cakes

I was pleased to see that my great granny Isabella’s gingerbread had made it onto the menu and the malty treacly sponge was an absolute delight spread thick with butter on the 8 hour train back down. It even made Scotrail’s instant ‘coffee’ bearable. This is not (just) a shameless nepotistic plug, Cups is a real gem!

Now that I’m back I’ll try to keep to more regular posts and I promise to put up a proper recipe tomorrow for you to get cracking with. until then…