Every time Steve and I go to the supermarket, the first thing we check is always the Reduced to Clear section. Best of all the supermarket sections. Never before known to me until Steve came into my life.
For those who aren’t familiar with it (perhaps you are rich enough to not get excited over saving pennies), the Reduced to Clear section of a supermarket holds assorted foodstuffs, from all over the shop, which have reached their Best Before dates and so been reduced in price to be sold off quickly. Yellow stickers, printed with price reduction and new barcodes, are stuck over the old barcodes. As long as it looks and smells ok; you eat what you buy either that day or the next; or freeze it upon getting home; it’ll be perfectly edible.
However, it’s not as simple as it seems. First, this is a very popular section of the supermarket so you’ll often have to queue just to get within reach of it. It seems no-one can resist a 50p-cheaper chocolate pudding, even people who look like bankers. Second, there are peak times for the section, when items are first put there and when they are further reduced. Get there at the right time, it’ll be a treasure trove of yummy bargains; get there at the wrong time, it’ll be a gaping hole littered with a few horrible pre-packaged sandwiches. In my experience, they first fill the section at around 1pm — then if you’re willing to risk missing out on the good stuff in exchange for a better price, at around 5pm they mark down prices even lower.
ANYWAY. To the actual point. Today Steve and I found a whole duck, reduced from £10 to £5. Our best find yet! Obviously, we dropped our previous dinner plans to make Peking Duck instead.
We rushed home and Steve got started straight away. We were too hungry to allow for some of the usual Peking Duck preparations, such as pouring boiling water over the duck and waiting for it to dry again afterwards (a trick for getting crispy skin). Nevertheless, it turned out amazing! I cut cucumber and spring onions into thin strips, Steve marinaded the duck and put it in the oven, before making the pancakes.
An hour and 45 minutes later the duck came out, all crispy blackened skin and fragrant juices. We carved off strips of crackly skin and tender brown flesh with ease and added these to Steve’s warm fresh pancakes, together with cucumber, spring onion and hoisin sauce (which Steve insists on spreading on with spring onion ‘brushes’ — see photo above). Steve’s recipe for the duck and pancakes is below.
Impromptu Peking Duck:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C
2. Dry the duck’s skin as much as possible — with kitchen towels, or a hairdryer if you have one
3. To make the glaze, start with a large dollop of honey then slowly add the soy sauce and the lemon juice by the teaspoonful — two or three should do — until you get a thick yet runny consistency
4. Season with five spice, then generously spread over the duck
5. Put the rest of the lemon inside the duck to infuse
6. Weigh the duck to calculate the cooking time — allow 20 minutes per 500g, then an extra 20 minutes on top
7. After half an hour, bring the oven temperature down to 160°C
8. For the last 15 minutes, turn the temperature back up to the highest your oven goes to (this will ensure the skin gets crispy)
9. Take duck out of the oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes, while preparing the pancakes.
- 250g flour
- 100ml hot (not quite boiling) water
- Sesame oil
1. Slowly add water to the flour, a tablespoon at a time, until you have a dough
2. Knead and then roll into a sausage about 1in thick
3. Chop the sausage at 0.5in intervals into pieces and roll these into balls
4. Dip the balls in sesame oil
5. Roll the balls into thin pancakes
6. Dry fry for 30 seconds on each side
7. Serve hot, to be filled with strips cucumber, spring onion and duck meat.