Beautiful birds

Bart Beek | VOLUME 28, ISSUE 2

Grilled, sautéed, poached, or roasted … there’s a reason why poultry is so popular, and it’s especially easy to prepare with these scrumptious recipes.

During my younger years while growing up in the small country town of Naracoorte, the meats we consumed were mostly local lamb, beef and occasionally goat. Chicken was considered more of a luxury food item and was only cooked by our mother on special occasions.

We did have an enclosed ‘chook yard’ out the back which contained lively bantam chicks that gave us a continuous supply of small eggs, but we never considered using the chooks as food. Thinking back now, I don’t recall noticing one missing when a roast chicken graced our table … should I have looked closer? They shared the backyard with a family of mallard ducks that roamed freely and seemed to be continually fossicking for anything edible. They were there as our pets and we enjoyed keeping them, so roast duck was never an option on our menu.

Poultry is the second-most-eaten meat in the world, coming in just after pork. Examples of poultry include chicken, duck, quail, pheasant, emu, ostrich and many more. There are so many different ways to cook poultry, including stir-frying, slow braising, poaching, or roasting, and the meat can be served hot or cold.

The roasted Chinese-style duck with feet and head still attached is the result of a long, traditional process and best left to the experts. This process includes scalding, hanging, drying, and roasting a duck. For convenience, it’s best to purchase one from a Chinese barbecue restaurant. You can buy a whole prepared duck, or just a half, and have it all chopped up in a flash. Or tell the cleaver-yielding duck-chef ‘no chop’ if you don’t want it in pieces.

I have included two recipes using the crispy skin and succulent meat from a purchased Chinese roasted duck. The first is a delicious starter combining duck with ginger and hoisin sauce. It’s all wrapped up inside a wonton skin and fried until crisp and golden. The second is an Asian duck salad, with a seriously good chilli bite and a sweet tangy sauce.

I’ve also included a recipe using fresh duck breasts that are fat free, sliced thin and spiced up with various ground peppers. They’re quickly pan-seared to crisp up the outside while retaining a pink, moist centre, and then presented with blistered capsicums, asparagus, baby capers and a very light dressing.

The Japanese do a wonderful miso chicken and here is my version. Miso is traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting soybeans (or barley, rice and other ingredients) with salt. It’s a thick paste that has a salty, sweet and savoury taste, which suits chicken beautifully. I glaze the chicken thigh fillets in a miso sauce until it has a brilliant sheen and serve it sliced on soba noodles with sautéed mushrooms.

I love quail for its delicious gamey flavour, its texture and moisture. The secret to perfectly prepared quail? Do not over-cook it. I break the quail down into boned-out breasts and marylands, then coat the pieces with a Spanish-style rub. The combination of orange zest, cardamom, coriander seeds and brown sugar transforms the quail into something quite mystical, and it cooks in just minutes.

And how good is the classic flavour of crunchy meringue combined with whipped vanilla cream, tangy passionfruit curd and fresh raspberries? It sounds like the ultimate Aussie pav to me and the perfect end to a special meal.

Roasted duck and ginger wontons

Practice makes perfect, and that’s so true of making wontons. Make sure that you cut all the filling ingredients quite small, as large pieces can tear the wonton skins.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 8 minutes

Serves: makes about 24 crispy wontons

½ Chinese roasted duck

2 tblsps peanut oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

4 tblsps fresh ginger, grated

3 golden shallots, diced small

120g hoisin sauce

2 cups bean sprouts, chopped

1 cup peanuts, chopped

24 square wonton skins

Garlic and chilli dipping sauce

¼ cup rice wine vinegar

¼ cup caster sugar

2 cloves garlic, crushed

½ tsp salt

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

Dipping Sauce

Boil together the rice wine vinegar and sugar until dissolved, simmer for five minutes, then cool. Mix in the salt, garlic and chilli flakes and store in the refrigerator.

Prepare the filling

Remove all the skin and meat from the duck and cut into small dice. Place into a bowl and set aside.

Heat a frypan to medium heat and add in the peanut oil. Add in the crushed garlic and cook for 20 seconds until fragrant but not coloured. Add in the ginger and diced shallots and sauté for several minutes until well cooked. Combine in the hoisin sauce and cook for several minutes, then cool to room temperature.

Add this mix to the diced duck meat and combine in the chopped bean sprouts and peanuts.

To make the wontons

Place several wonton skins onto a work surface and lightly brush two joining sides with a little beaten egg. Place a heaped teaspoon of the duck filling onto the centre and fold carefully to form a triangle, removing as much air as possible.

Hold the triangle in both hands with the largest side facing away from you and gently bring both corners together. Brush with a little beaten egg and pinch together.

Gently lower into a deep fryer set at 180°C and cook until golden and crisp. Present on a sharing plate with some of the garlic chilli sauce.

Roast duck with chilli noodles

Do not boil the cellophane noodles because they will break up into smaller pieces. A simple two minute soak in hot water is sufficient.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: nil

Serves: 4

½ Chinese roasted duck

2 cups cellophane noodles

3 long red chillies, halved, seeds removed, sliced long

3 long green chillies, prepared as for red chilli

1 red capsicum, cut long and thin

¼ cup peanuts, chopped

1 cup basil leaves

1 cup coriander sprigs

½ cup garden mint leaves


3 tblsps fish sauce

3 tblsps lime juice

2 tblsps brown sugar

Remove all the meat and skin from the roast duck and slice into thin strips. Set aside in a large bowl. Soak the cellophane noodles in a deep bowl of boiling water for two minutes. Drain, refresh with cold water and drain again, and then add to the duck strips.

Combine the duck and noodles with the red and green chilli strips, capsicum, chopped peanuts and all the herbs.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients, then pour over the salad. Toss well and present on flat plates.

Glazed miso chicken with noodles

Marinade the chicken for several hours to get the full flavour into the chicken. Brushing the marinade over the chicken during the cooking process will result in a deep, glossy surface. Dried shitake mushrooms have a stronger, more robust flavour than their fresh counterparts.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes Serves: 4

125ml mirin

125ml cooking sake

¼ cup soy sauce

150g caster sugar

100g red miso paste

8 chicken thigh fillets, skin removed

4 tblsps extra virgin olive oil

1 cup dried shitake mushrooms

1 cup enoki mushrooms

200g soba noodles, cooked

2 spring onions, sliced thin and soaked in ice water

4 tblsps pickled ginger

1 tblsp sesame oil

Combine the mirin and sake in a small saucepan, place onto the heat and bring to a boil (this will remove the alcohol). Simmer for several minutes and then add in the soy, caster sugar and the miso paste. Bring to a boil, whisking well to remove any miso lumps. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Place the chicken into half of the miso glaze, coat well, cover and allow to marinade in the fridge for several hours.

Place two tablespoons little oil into a heated frying pan and cook the drained chicken, basting as it cooks. Cook until golden and shiny, keeping the centre moist.

Soak the dried shitake mushrooms in a bowl of boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain, discard the stems (they are too tough to use), then slice the remainder and set aside.

Heat remaining two tablespoons of olive oil in a frypan and add in the shitake mushrooms. Toss well and cook for several minutes. Turn the heat to low and stir through the enoki mushrooms. Add the soba noodles and the left-over miso glaze.

Gently warm the noodles. Arrange onto individual serving plates, topped with the sliced chicken pieces. Finish with the pickled ginger, sesame oil and the spring onion curls.

Seared duck breast with blistered capsicum, asparagus and capers

I prefer to pull away and discard all the skin and fat from the duck breasts. Because the slices are quickly seared, very little of the moisture is lost and they become succulent and tender.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 12 minutes

Serves: 4

2 duck breasts

½ tsp Szechwan peppercorns

1 tsp black peppercorns

½ tsp salt flakes

1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder

2 tblsps extra virgin olive oil

16 asparagus spears, trimmed

½ cucumber, peeled and cut into 8cm strips

2 red capsicums, halved, seeds removed

1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil


2 tsps white wine vinegar

2 tblsps extra virgin olive oil

2 tblsps baby capers

Combine in a mortar the Szechwan peppercorns, black peppercorns and salt flakes. Grind fine, then add in the five-spice powder and two tablespoons of olive oil. Place the mixture into a mixing bowl and set aside.

Remove the skins from the duck breasts and discard. Slice the breasts into 5mm strips and place into the spice paste, coating well.

Heat a frypan, add in a tablespoon of olive oil and place the capsicum skin side down into the pan. Cover the capsicum with a sheet of kitchen paper and top with another frypan to flatten it out. Grill until the skin is blackened, then put in a plastic bag to steam and cool. Remove the charred skins and set the red flesh aside.

Heat a grill pan and cook the asparagus spears for several minutes until just cooked, then place into a bowl along with the blistered capsicum and cucumber strips. Combine together the dressing ingredients and pour over the vegetables.

Place onto a serving plate and then quickly sear the duck strips, keeping the flesh pink in the centre. Place onto the salad, add some of the baby capers and serve.

Grilled Spanish quail with spice rub and olives

The flavouring used on the quail can also be rubbed over a whole quail and oven-roasted. I pan-grill the portions in this recipe, but they are even more delicious when grilled over charcoal embers.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes

Serves: 4, tapas style

3 quails

1 tsp black peppercorns

3 whole cardamom pods

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp salt flakes

2 cloves garlic

1 medium shallot, sliced

½ orange, zest only

1 tblsp brown sugar

1 pinch ground cloves

2 tblsps extra virgin olive oil

½ cup assorted olives

½ cup mixed baby tomatoes

½ cup basil leaves

Remove the legs and breasts from the quails and place them into a bowl.

Place the peppercorns, cardamom pods, coriander seeds and salt flakes into a mortar and grind until fine. Add in the garlic cloves, sliced shallot, orange zest, brown sugar, ground cloves and two tablespoons of olive oil. Pound well until a paste forms.

Spread the spice paste all over the quail joints, cover the bowl and leave to marinate in the fridge for several hours.

Place a tablespoon of olive oil into a heated fry pan and add in the quail pieces. Grill for three minutes, then turn and grill for another three minutes. Keep the quail flesh pink and moist, but cook the outside golden and crisp.

Present on a sharing platter with a selection of olives, tomatoes, and basil leaves.

Crunchy meringues with raspberries and passionfruit curd

Correct oven temperature is a critical factor when preparing meringues. I pre-heat the oven to 150°C, but turn the temperature down to 120°C when the meringues go in.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves: makes 12


110ml (about 3 eggs) fresh egg whites, at room temperature

165g caster sugar

¾ tsp white vinegar

Pre-heat the oven to 150°C with fan off. Using a mixing machine beat the egg whites on high for several minutes until stiff peaks form. Keep the machine on high and slowly (a spoon at a time) add in the sugar. Wait for 30 seconds before adding the next spoonful of sugar.

When all the sugar has been added, beat on high for five minutes, then stop the machine and scrape down the sides using a spatula. Add in the vinegar and beat on high for two more minutes until glossy and well combined.

Pipe the meringue in small circles onto an oven tray lined with baking paper. Place into the oven and turn down the temperature to 120°C. Cook for 45 minutes or until crisp, then turn off the oven and allow to cool in the oven.

Passionfruit curd (makes 420g)

5 egg yolks

125g caster sugar

100g fresh passionfruit pulp

165g unsalted butter, cut into 2cm cubes

Combine together in a deep bowl the egg yolks, caster sugar and passionfruit pulp. Place above a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until well blended and light.

Slowly whisk in the butter, a cube at a time until the mixture thickens and can coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and immerse the bowl into an ice bath. Stir with a pastry scraper while cooling down. Place into a plastic squeeze bottle and chill.


300ml thickened cream

¼ cup caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 punnet raspberries

Beat the cream together with the sugar and vanilla extract until stiff.

Place a meringue onto a plate, spoon a dollop of cream on top, and make a smear of cream to the side. Place two tablespoons of passionfruit curd onto the top of the meringue and scatter a tablespoon of the raspberries over the curd and several onto the side. Top with another meringue.

Finish with a light sprinkle of icing sugar.