Recipe: Roast duck Thai red curry with lychees

19 March 2020
Roast duck Thai red curry with lychees

Taken from The Botanical Kitchen, by Elly McCausland

Yes, it may be called "roast duck Thai red curry with lychees" in this book, but in my house this is referred to simply as "delicious duck curry", which hopefully tells you everything you need to know about it.

Pairing the dense, rich flesh of duck with the delicate perfume and soft spring of lychees is a luscious marriage (and one that I have experienced several times in Thailand), but even more so when the whole is draped in a sweet, spicy and deeply fragrant coconut cream.

You can use fresh lychees, but I don't think it's worth the faff of peeling and stoning them (and I inevitably spray lychee juice in my eye whenever I try). The canned variety work excellently, and can be found at most Asian grocers and even big supermarkets. You could substitute with fresh or canned pineapple, if you prefer.

Serves 4

  • 4 duck legs
  • 2tbs sea salt flakes
  • 2tbs coconut oil
  • 6 banana shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, tough outer layers removed, very finely sliced
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves (fresh, or frozen and thawed; avoid dried), finely shredded (tough centre stems discarded)
  • 400ml full-fat coconut milk
  • 2tbs Thai red curry paste
  • 4tsp light muscovado, palm or coconut sugar, plus extra to taste if necessary
  • 1tsp ground turmeric
  • 200ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
  • 200g cherry tomatoes
  • A couple of large handfuls of spinach leaves
  • Juice of ½ lime, plus extra to taste if necessary, and wedges to serve
  • Fish sauce or dark soy sauce, to taste
  • 400g can of lychees, drained
  • A small bunch of Thai basil, leaves picked, or 30g roughly chopped coriander leaves, for sprinkling

Rub the duck legs well with the salt and place them in a single layer in a shallow dish. If you have time, chill them in the fridge overnight, or for a few hours, uncovered. This will help you to get really crispy skin.

If you don't have time to refrigerate the duck legs, simply rub the salt into the duck legs when you are ready to cook.

Pre-heat the oven to 190°C.

Place the duck legs on a wire rack above an oven tray lined with foil, then place them in the oven and roast for 10 minutes to crisp the skin. Lower the oven temperature to 170°C, add a cupful of water or stock to the oven tray, then roast for 90 minutes, until the duck is tender and cooked through.

Meanwhile, make the curry. Heat the coconut oil over a medium-high heat in a large frying pan or wok, then add the shallots and sauté them for 5-10 minutes, until golden and starting to soften. Add the garlic, lemongrass and lime leaves and cook for another couple of minutes until softened and aromatic.

Lower the heat to medium. Add a couple of tablespoons of the coconut milk and the curry paste, sugar and turmeric, and sauté for a couple of minutes until fragrant – add a little more coconut milk if it starts to stick. This will help to release the aromatics in the paste and prevent the paste from burning.

Add the stock and remaining coconut milk, then simmer for 15 minutes, until the sauce is thick, creamy and aromatic. Stir in the cherry tomatoes and spinach and cook for another 10-15 minutes, until the tomatoes start to break down. Lower the heat, then add the lime juice. Taste and check the seasoning – you may want to add some fish or soy sauce to make it more salty, depending on the brands of curry paste and stock you use, and you may want to adjust the lime juice and sugar.

Stir in the lychees to briefly heat through. Keep the sauce warm until the duck is ready.

When the duck legs are ready, place one leg on each of four plates. Divide the sauce equally between the four plates, pouring it over the duck legs. Sprinkle with the Thai basil or coriander leaves. Serve with steamed jasmine rice and lime wedges.

Photography by Polly Webster

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