Duck with Lychee and Ginger Salad and…Life Experience

When Archie was applying for the course he would like to do the Head of the School told him he wasn’t ready, as he needed to gain some ‘life experience’ before being accepted.  Archie asked, ‘What do you mean by life experience?’  And without a breath of hesitation the director replied, ‘Well you need to have had your heart broken’.

But Archie didn’t want to have his heart broken because Archie was in love.

Archie is in love

They met at a party and like a scene from a movie; across a crowded room they saw each other.  And that was it.  Archie came home and told me he’d met the most beautiful girl in the world.  And because Archie is the nicest boy he said, ‘She’s tall and slim and blond mum, she’s just like you’!  It’s so lovely that he didn’t say, ‘Just like you used to be’.

And so the romance began and Archie threw himself into the relationship one hundred per cent and all was wonderful.  Then came Christmas Eve.  Archie went to her home bearing gifts and after he’d put the jewels around her neck she gave him the news that she’d really prefer it if they were ‘just friends’.  And she told him there was no one else it’s just that she’d prefer to be single.

Confit Duck Legs

When he arrived home I was just about to open some champagne to celebrate Christmas but the festivities had to be put on hold.  With great difficulty, Archie told me what had transpired.  Their time together had ended with Archie telling her that he would prefer it if they didn’t see each other for a while so Archie could have time to get over her.  He said he hoped she would understand and not take it personally it’s just that she meant so much to him that it would probably be easiest this way.  And she said she understood.

So Christmas was a little difficult for Archie but his mates were on deck and suggested Archie go away with them for a few days.  So just after Christmas they set off for the races that were out in the country and about a seven-hour drive from home.  When they arrived they parked their car near the racetrack and this was one of those events where the cars park all around the track and your car gets blocked in by other vehicles so you can’t move it and all the occupants sleep in their cars and it’s something you really only like to do when you’re a teenager as there are no creature comforts and it’s only teenagers who don’t seem to mind this.

Ginger and Lychee Salad

And so Archie was sitting back in the car with his mates and trying to take his mind off the Christmas Eve experience when he noticed a white car locked in beside him.  And glancing through the window he saw his ex-girlfriend now in the arms of one of Archie’s friends, known now as the ex-mate.

What were the odds!  They both drove for over seven hours, one to try to get over the break-up and the other to move on very quickly and they end up at the same event with their cars locked in beside each other for the next 48 hours.  Awkward!

When Archie phoned and told me the situ I was a little lost for words.  That’s when I blurted out ‘At least now you can say you’ve gained some life experience’.  But Archie said, ‘Mum, life experience is over-rated’.  And I would have to agree.  There are some things your life doesn’t need to experience.

Has your life ever experienced the Christmas Eve break-up?

Red Braised Duck with Lychee and Ginger Salad

Red Braised Duck with Lychee and Ginger Salad

This recipe is one of Archie’s favourites and he needs all his favourites around him at the moment.  The recipe is from Essentially Thai, one of the Spirit House Cookbooks by Helen Brierty and Annette Fear.  If you haven’t been to their restaurant you really should make the effort.  It’s on the Sunshine Coast and is one of my favourite places to be.

Degree of Difficulty:  3/5

Cost:  Duck marylands can be purchased in packs of two for around $10/packet.  Lychees are currently in season and can be purchased for around $10/kilo (compared with $30/kilo out of season) so now is the time to make this dish.

Serves:  2 or 4 depending on your appetite and what else you are serving.  Eg:  if serving a hearty entree, one duck leg per guest is sufficient but if straight into the mains with no entree, I serve two duck legs per person.

All Plated Up

4 duck maryland

all of the master stock from the recipe below

2 green spring onions, including some of the green party, trimmed and thinly sliced

12 lychees, peeled, de-seeded (pitted and halved

1/2 cup mint leaves

1/2 cup coriander leaves (cilantro)

1/2 red chilli, de-seeded and finely shredded

2 tbspns ginger, peeled and finely shredded

juice of half a lime

Master Stock

(If you are unfamiliar with some of these ingredients don’t panic.  They are all readily available at your local Asian grocer.)

2 ltr (3 1/2 pints) water

250ml (8 fl oz) Shaoxing wine

125ml (4 fl oz) light soy sauce (for gluten free substitute a wheat-free soy)

75 ml (2 1/2 fl oz) dark soy sauce (for gluten free substitute a wheat-free soy)

100g (3 1/2 oz) yellow rock sugar

2 pieces tangerine peel

2 pieces cassia bark

4 pieces star anise

1 knob ginger, roughly chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled

To make master stock:  Bring all the ingredients to boil in a large stock pot, simmer for half an hour.  Strain.  Makes about 2 1/2 ltrs (4 pints).  Any leftover master stock can be either refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for several months.  Use as a base for soups, add a few spoonfuls to a stir-fry or use for braising meats.

To prepare duck:  Preheat oven to 160C (325F/Gas Mark 3).

Trim excess fat from the duck and cut at the joint.  (I also wash and pat dry the legs then chop off the ends of the bones with a meat cleaver as it makes for better presentation).  Place in a baking dish, skin side down.  Bring master stock to the boil in a saucepan and pour over the duck pieces aso they are almost submerged.  Cover with a lid or aluminium foil and place in oven.  Cook for 1 1/2 hours and then remove the lid or foil and turn ducks over to skin side up.

Cook for another hour until the meat is almost falling from the bone.  Remove the duck from the stock and refrigerate until needed.  Completely chill the master stock in the rrefrigerator and then remove the fat that will have set on top.  Place stock in a saucepan, bring to the boil and reduce by half.  The duck pieces can be either reheated in the reduced stock or, for crispy skin duck, placed in a shallow pan, skin side up with a little stock, then reheated uncovered in a 180C (350F/Gas Mark 4) oven.

While the duck is reheating and the sauce reducing, make the salad by combining the remaining ingredients in a bowl and tossing with a squeeze of lime juice.

Transfer duck pieces to serving bowl and pour over about 1/2 cup (125ml/4fl oz) of reduced stock, then pile the lychee and ginger salad on top of the duck pieces.



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  1. Sigh. Really, what were the odds? Poor Archie. I hope he can find it funny at a later time, but it must sting like hell right now. Your duck looks amazing – I had four marylands to use up yesterday, so I roasted them, but now I wish I’d waited a day and seen this recipe. I’ll bookmark it away for next time! Thanks Charlie!

    • hotlyspiced says:

      That’s a shame about your duck because this is such a fantastic recipe with wonderful flavours and it really is rather simple. Next time Celia!

  2. Oh poor Archie. That’s an awful story although seeing her with someone else in the next car maybe gave him a little bit more help getting over her? I’ve still not been brave enough to cook duck. Maybe 2012 will be the year of the duck!

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Claire, this is a great duck recipe for anyone who has never before cooked duck because it really is terribly easy. Once it’s in the oven it pretty much just looks after itself. Give it a go – I’m sure you’ll master it!

  3. oh dear poor archie! i am glad he has you to talk to tho cos you sound like an awesome mum

  4. I feel for Archie…foolish girl, he is very lovely!

  5. and I can see this recipe working well with pork belly also…

  6. Oh dear! I did not guess that happening at all! Those are very slim odds! Well her loss really right? 🙂

  7. Sadly Mrs N always thinks of Jermima Puddleduck when duck is mentioned and I am told I can have chicken and like it.

  8. Losing a girl and a mate in one fell swoop; that’s rough. I hope things pick up for Archie soon. And that your delicious duck helped.

  9. Poor Archie! That must have really hurt, having her so close by.

  10. Poor Archie, what a Christmas for him! it sounds to me likely that the mate was already in the picture before the official breakup. You do realize that the thought of such an example of perfection for a mother in law as you are, will always quickly weed out the chaff in the girlfriend crop 🙂
    This recipe is definitely on my to-do list, as is a visit to Spirit House this year, Yumm!

  11. I have to agree with Archie, Charlie Louie, in fact I would go as far as to say it just plain SUCKED. Poor guy. In TO we would without hesitation refer to her as a B E – A T C H. I bet the duck made him feel better quickly. I really love the Asian flavours of this dish and the presentation is divine. Happy New Year, and I do hope such a good catch like Archie will find true love soon.

  12. It is sad for Archie but hey he has a superb mom like you who he can talk to about things.
    The duck looks amazing!!!

  13. i am devastated for Archie, so so true ‘life experience’ is awful sometimes, i’m sure it will be a heart breaking lesson that makes him stronger.
    i love love love the duck 🙂

  14. Oh, poor Archie – that first broken heart is quite devastating, isn’t it. And those circumstances really couldn’t have been more awkward either. Archie’s right – life experience can be very over-rated at times.
    At least he can eat his way through the bad times with amazing dishes like this one!

  15. Thats such a shame. I guess its better in the long run, although it does hurt and yes, life experience is over-rated. You’re such a great mum! Its fab that you are so close

  16. Magnolia Verandah says:

    Oooooh tough – (not the duck I hope). Some life experiences can be overrated! Hope his favourite food cheered him a little! Here’s looking forward to happier experiences in the New Year.

  17. You are a beautiful storyteller… but poor Archie!!! Into each life many breakups will come… and it sounds cliche but I always look back and say WTF was I thinking??? LOL!

  18. Oh oh oh. This hits a little close to home right now, and I dont’ think I can quite bring myself to write what I’d like to write.

    Poor Archie, but just think how wonderful it will be for him to meet someone who returns every passionate thought in his heart with the same degree of adoration and respect. xo

  19. aww, poor thing. the first heartbreak is awful. I moped about for months. I hope he feels better soon!

  20. A tough time for Archie, to be sure, losing the girl and a friend at once. Still, he doesn’t need people like that in his life. Period. I hope he found your duck comforting, It sure sounds good!

  21. I really feel for Archie. How devastating.

    Happy New Year.

  22. Sigh. Poor Archie. That first heartbreak is hands-down the hardest, most dreadful thing. And to see her right after, having moved on so quickly…

    My heart goes out to him. Here’s to 2012 being a gentler ride!

  23. Oh my, what a shocker – poor Archie! Awesome that you can console him with his favourite meals.
    🙂 Mandy

  24. Poor Archie!!!
    That is such a horrible story 🙁

    I love the look of this dish, it looks so tasty and healthy!

  25. Ohhh Poor Archie 🙁 Feel so sorry for him. I don’t think that’s very nice to break up with someone on Christmas eve… she should have at least wanted till after Christmas…

    Fortunately, I haven’t had any Xmas break ups yet but my sister did and it really wasn’t pretty 🙁

    Hope he’s feeling better now!

  26. B at Just Add Attitude says:

    Poor Archie there is no good time for a break-up but Christmas Eve has to be the absolutely pits. What hard lessons to have to learn about love and friendship or ex friendship.

  27. Oh no. Poor Archie. I guess the important lesson there that we all learn later in life is that when someone says all those things like ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ or, ‘I just want to be single, there’s no-one else’, they almost always mean the complete opposite, weirdly. That races scenario is so freaky and so awful. He sounds like such a mature (not to mention very nice and very handsome) young man, to be able to get through that situation, it must have been horrible. He looks like a very good catch, I hope his heart doesn’t suffer too much. And that Head of School it a twit. The salad looks lovely, duck is one of my favourite things, but I haven’t eaten it for years, as I love to photograph ducks and therefore, can’t eat them anymore. Definitely going to make that salad though.

  28. Poor Archie – no-one needs life experience like this. Hope he finds a nice girl soon who will appreciate his affection. I adore the look of this salad – such a devine colour on the duck skin.

  29. I once had to go on a long 3 1/2 hour drive back home with the boyfriend I had broken up with on Valentine’s Day sitting right beside him as we shared a lift home …we were about 18 at the time. So I relate. And there was no yummy duck to make it all better. Life, hey?

    • hotlyspiced says:

      That is a tragic story. I don’t know how you survived the journey. And Valentine’s Day to-boot. What a story. Glad you are over the trauma now.

  30. Poor Archie. That is really sad…

    Your dish is fabulous! It looks really scrumptious and refined.

    Happy New Year!



  31. Oh crap the duck looks divine but poor Archie. OMG my heart is actyally really hurting for him. You just want to protect your kids forever and don’t ever want them to feel that kind of pain. I know we all go through it but that really sucks and what a shitty so called mate.
    Archie sounds like a real catch though and I am sure his heart will be healed by someone special before too long. xx

  32. Ah, that must have been rough…at least Archie knows now what the real problem was, instead of maybe wondering what he did wrong. At least things are clear. Doesn’t make it easier, I know…
    I loved the way you told the story and the duck looks yummy. I wish I had one of those food replicators from Star Trek.
    And the answer to that last question is no.

  33. ouch – I think Archie sounds wise with his views on life experience – innocence is a beautiful thing and I often wonder why people are so keen to take it away from us. Glad he has some favourites to find comfort in – now that is good life experience!

  34. Oh my hat, poor Archie. Hope that brazen little hussy gets her comeuppance! Glad she didn’t end up being your dort-in-law, she sure doesn’t deserve your food!

  35. Break ups are tough, but that duck has to make anyone feel better. Look delicious.

  36. Ahhhhh poor Archie. The duck looks fantastic. I love the idea of incorporating lychee into a salad 🙂

  37. Poor Archie. That was a horrible experience to have. 🙁

  38. First heartbreaks… and Christmas is such a bad time for it to happen (not that any other time would make it any easier). I can feel Archie’s pain , but I’m sure he’ll come out of it stronger. If I had had someone to cook me a duck like yours, I wouldn’t have minded breakups as much ..

  39. What a weird coincidence! Quite shocking!
    And the duck looks absolutely delicious!

  40. I had a boyfriend who used to regularly break up with me on every major holiday. LOL I kid you not. I can laugh about it now because I’ve been happily married for years to another, BETTER guy. But at the time, it was painful. And yes, I racked up loads of life experience from it. 😉

  41. Oh what a horrible experience for Archie! Hope he recovers in a jiffy and moves on! Life experiences are the ones that suck, otherwise they’d be known as “that most awesome fantastic lucky experience” 🙂

  42. I’m pretty sure my heart actually just broke for Archie. (And he’s so CUTE! I’m also pretty sure his ex-mate couldn’t be any more adorable than he is. Impossible.)

    That girl made the wrong choice. And you can let him know that I said that.

  43. Sorry to hear that. =( I’m not sure what program requires a broken heart. What an odd thing to require.

  44. this all looks amazing! and the photos are excellent

  45. Poor Archie, a life experience we’d all like to save our loved ones from. GG

  46. I’m sorry to hear that, but I’m sure it wasn’t meant for him to be together with her and someone amazing is waiting for him! I love this duck dish (my husband loves duck) and salad. I will bookmark this to try it out one day soon. It’s gorgeous dish. I hope I can make it just like yours!

  47. Oh dear, we hate to see our kids hurting, no matter what age they are. As for “life experience”, our saying is….if doesn’t kill ya, it will make ya stronger!!

    The duck looks divine-thanks for sharing 🙂

  48. What a life experience! Poor Archie.
    The salad looks terrific…and now I am ready for that heavenly-looking braised duck!

  49. Mmmm lychee salad. I only tasted them for the first time last week! They’re FANTASTIC!

  50. Oh poor Archie…and I can feel for you as a mother. I want my children to have “life experiences” but then again I want to protect them!! I can think of a few names I’d like to call his ex, but I will refrain for now!

  51. Oh, poor Archie! All else pales in comparison – you have such wonderful stories! I’ve missed a few posts – was on vacation for 3 weeks and am still catching up with life. I’m glad to be back!

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