It’s snowing outside here in Shankill – well just a flurry but it is real snow. In Urumqi it’s -19 degrees C, too cold for Dermot to venture out but Shan tells me he loves to play with the texture of a snowball gathered from the window ledge and stares in intense concentration as it dissolves in his warm fingers. Shane is already back working in Beijing where it is a mere -7. The Spring Festival is drawing to a close this weekend and China is grinding back to it’s normal winter rhythm.
I’ve had many Chinese meals over the past two weeks including the superb New Year’s Banquet at China Sichuan Dublin where we celebrated both the Chinese New Year and, in his absence, Dermot’s first birthday on 5th February. But I had this notion that I wanted to create a Chinese Pizza to mark the arrival of the Year of the Horse, one that I could cook on the Big Green Egg.
I love making pizza dough and normally use the recipe in this post for the base but, thanks to my Italian friend Solange, I’ve recently discovered Pizza da Piero by the Artisan Pizza company whose products are hand made in Rathmines. These thin, light bases short-circuit the work of preparing a pizza, especially on a stormy Monday night when the rain is teeming down outside. They come in resealable packs of three and cook in about 10 minutes to crisp perfection.
I had decided to build my topping around confit duck and I had consulted Twitter about what else to include in it. I got lots of interesting suggestions and my favourite came from Tom Walsh, head chef at Samphire@theWaterside. And so Confit Duck Pizza with Chilli Jam, Sweet Pickled Peppers, Goats Cheese and Rocket was born.
For ease of reference, I’ve set out all the steps in the recipe below. But in practice I make this pizza the day after I’ve cooked a batch of confit duck legs. I roast some off in the oven that day and serve them with puy lentils or duck fat roast potatoes and pickled red cabbage. I save the rest to make confit duck hash and pizzas.
Tom Chef’s chilli jam and sweet pickled peppers can also be made well in advance and these days I always have some of each in the fridge in kilner jars. You will find you can put them to all sorts of uses in Asian and western dishes.
With these ingredients to hand it takes just moments to make up the pizza and you can relax while your oven heats to temperature. In my case the most challenging bit of preparing the pizza was the dash outside to the Big Green Egg in the lashing rain. But then I delegated that… and proved, once again, that the Big Green Egg can cope with any extremes of weather, even if I can’t!
Confit Duck Pizza with Chilli Jam , Sweet Pickled Peppers, Goats Cheese and Rocket
(makes 3 pizzas)
- 3 Pizza da Piero bases
- 2 confit duck legs
- Tom Chef”s Chilli Jam
- Tom Chef’s sweet pickled peppers
- 1 log of soft goat’s cheese
- a large red onion thinly sliced
- 3 large handfuls of rocket
- If using a Big Green Egg, place your pizza stone on stainless steel grill over the plate setter legs up and heat to about 220 degrees c. Alternatively heat your oven to 250 degrees c.
- Shred your duck legs including some of the crispy skin.
- Spread a thin layer of chilli jam on each base.
- Scatter over pickled peppers, confit duck and sliced onion.
- Break up some goats cheese and dot over the top of the pizza.
- Bake for 7 to 12 minutes depending on your oven temperature until the base is crispy and the goats cheese just melting.
- Scatter with rocket and serve.
Confit Duck Legs
- 6 duck legs
- Enough duck fat to cover the duck legs when melted (about 4 jars)
- About 6 cloves garlic
- about 4 Star anise
- Some springs of rosemary and thyme
- A few bay leaves
- Salt and pepper
- Dry out the duck legs at room temperature. Tuck the cloves of garlic, star anise, rosemary, thyme and bay leaves around them, season with salt and pepper and cover with melted duck fat.
- Slow-roast them in the oven at 120 to 130 degrees for 3 to 4 hours until the meat is melting off the bone. Allow them to cool until the duck fat has set.
- When ready to use, gently prise the duck legs out of the fat, saving the infused fat for glorious duck roast potatoes. Reheated the confit duck legs in the oven for about 15 minutes by starting them at 170 degrees C and crisping off the skin at 230 degrees C.
Tom Chef’s Chilli Jam
- 6-8 red chilli peppers chopped roughly
- 300g castor sugar
- 300g white wine vinegar
- Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to the boil and cook gently to reduce to a syrupy, jam-like consistency being careful not to burn.
- Blend with a stick blender.
- Store in a sealed container in the fridge.
Tom Chef’s Sweet Pickled Peppers
- 4 to 6 long pointy red peppers
- 400g white wine vinegar
- 400g castor sugar
- 6 star anise
- a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
- Slice the peppers into thin strips.
- Pace the vinegar, sugar and star anise in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, add the pepper strips. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slowly.
- When cool add a drizzle of olive oil to taste and store in a sealed container in the fridge.
The birthday boy
On Dermot’s first birthday he fulfilled the Chinese tradition of choosing his “destiny” from an array of objects – a ritual remarkably similar to the Romanian one we witnessed for twins Oli and Fredi at their first birthday party and which I wrote about in Images and Flavours of Tuscany last August.
From the array of items on display, Dermot first chose a golden pig (wealth), a statue (power) and then a jade bracelet. So much for literary pursuits (sigh). Ah sure go on Dermot… at this stage of your young life, you may as well aim to rule the world.