The calm before the storm (and a recipe for Beer Duck)

I’m sitting here by the fire having a glass of wine. Shane is finalising the details of his and Shan’s wedding service and Dermot’s christening next Saturday. My husband and daughter in law have headed for the airport to collect the first of her arriving relatives – her cousin Wei Wei from Shanghai with her three year old daughter You You. The rest of Shan’s family arrive tomorrow evening and then, finally, my daughter Claire and Mike from Australia via Manchester at 9 am on Christmas Eve.
It has been a blessed time – seven days of having Dermot living in our house, watching him go from clinging nervously to Shane and burying his head in his chest, shy at  all the new faces around him, to clambering over every surface, diving under the coffee table to appear cheekily with a sweet paper, crawling across the room at breakneck speed for a reading of “That’s not my Santa”, finding any surface on which to make music.
We have passed to him, the youngest member of our family, the tradition of placing the angel on top of the Christmas tree – that’s on the Christmas tree Dermot – not off!

A 35 year old angel - passing the tradition across the generations
A 35 year old angel – passing the tradition across the generations

All the plans are made, the menus are finalised. Tomorrow I swing into cooking action. Tomorrow it all begins.
Only one mishap so far – a puncture in Duncannon – but guess what, the world didn’t fall in. It will be alright on the night.
Calm in Duncannon after last night's storm
Calm in Duncannon after last night’s storm

Tomorrow’s menu for our travel-weary guests has a distinctly Chinese theme – I’ve included links to where the recipes where have already been posted on the blog:

Wish me luck!
Beer duck – Pi jiu ya
Beer duck is a recipe I learned at Hutong Cusine in Beijing in October. It is simple and delicious.

Chun Yi preparing duck legs at Hutong Cuisine
Chun Yi preparing Beer Duck at Hutong Cuisine


  • 1 kg duck skinned and chopped into 4 cm pieces – use a whole duck or duck legs but not lean breast on its own
  • Cooking oil (groundnut or sunflower)


  • 5g ginger sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves peeled and smashed
  • 2 spring onions, white part only
  • 1 star anise
  • ½ tsp Sichuan pepper
  • 1 thumb size piece of cinnamon
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 tsp broad bean chilli paste – douban jiang


  • 1½ tbs light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 bottle or can of Tsingtao beer or other lager


  • A few pieces of coriander cut into sections


  1. Blanch the duck pieces in a pot of boiling water until the scum rises. Remove from pan, wash to remove any remaining impurities and pat dry.
  2. Season the wok with one tbs oil over medium heat. Add the duck pieces and fry until the duck brings out about 2 tbs oil and the pieces are lightly browned (if the duck is too lean to release oil, add up to 2 tbs to the wok).
  3. Push the duck to the side of the wok let the oil make a well at the centre, add the broad bean paste until the oil colours, then the remaining spices and cook for one minute until fragrant.
  4. Turn the heat to high, mix the spices and duck together. Add enough beer to barely cover the duck, then add the soy sauce and sugar.
  5. Bring to the boil then cover and simmer on a low heat for about 1½ hours until the sauce has nearly all gone. Stir in the coriander and serve.


5 thoughts on “The calm before the storm (and a recipe for Beer Duck)”

  1. Yes I was surprised to find that fresh bay leaves are used quite a bit in Beijing. Hope your translation is going well. If you have any more phrases you need help with let me know. By this time tomorrow I will have 9 Chinese guests in the house!

  2. What a wonderful journey following your blog – I hope ye have a magnificent celebration & look forward to reading all about it. Congrats to all of you & happy cooking.

  3. What a lovely recipe. Sounds like you had an exciting Christmas. The photos from the wedding and christening on Twitter were beautiful.

  4. I have a whole list of your own blog posts to catch up with and new recipes to try. Looking forward to it.

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