party food : duck and persimmon kebabs ; pear and ricotta croutons

22 Nov

Fruit is  healthy, obviously, but you don’t care about your guests’ waistlines. More importantly and superficially, it’s pretty. Next to your sombre piece of duck, a bright cube of persimmon takes all the glory. Add a round red tomato and you are in business. And a skinny sliver of pear makes a boring piece of toast as elegant as a spring hat.

(Am newly addicted to persimmons. Like a winter melon, neon orange and full of juice. Pairs with lots of things: cheese, chicken, prosciutto.)

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Duck and persimmon kebabs

As my mother used to sigh during her cooking classes: yes, it will work equally well with chicken. I happened to have a packet of duck wing bits, already deboned, in the freezer.

Marinate the duck overnight: about 200g of duck breast or deboned wings. Lie the meat flat in a shallow bowl and top with equally generous sloshes of soy sauce and rice vinegar. Add a teaspoon of honey and a teaspoon of tamarind paste. Add lots of pepper, chili if you like it and a teaspoon of something sour: mango powder is good.

The next day: quickly fry the duck in a large frying pan with a touch of oil until still slightly pink. Chop into bite-sized pieces and thread onto cocktail sticks with cubes of persimmon and halved cherry tomatoes.

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Pear and ricotta croutons

The chutney is the key to a strong and interesting flavour here – pick a good sharp one: tomato-chili or red onion would be good. I used Indian date and ginger, delicious.

Cut some squares of white sliced bread. Melt a little butter in a large flat frying pan and fry the bread to golden and crisp croutons. Alternatively, drizzle melted butter over a tray of bread squares and bake for 10 minutes.

Mix some ricotta with enough salt and pepper to give it a bit of bite. Quarter, core and slice a couple of pears wafer thin, lengthwise to make a nice long point. Leave the slices in a bowl of cold water with a squeeze of lemon so they don’t brown. When you are ready, top each crouton with a teaspoon of ricotta, a slice of pear and a little blob of spicy-sweet-sour chutney.

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