• SERVES 4 TO 6 AS PART OF A SHARED MEAL•
They say China rears over 80 per cent of the world's duck population, and it's not hard to believe that claim; travelling by land around the country, duck farms are evident everywhere. The world-famous Peking duck is beautiful but a little technical to make at home, so here's a recipe that's a little easier but equally rewarding. Try serving this for a crowd - they'll think you're a Chinese master chef.
1 x 2 kg (4 lb 6 oz) duck
1 tablespoon sichuan peppercorns
2 ½ teaspoons sea salt
30 g (1 oz/ ¼ cup) lapsang souchong tea leaves
2 tablespoons firmly packed soft brown sugar
sesame oil, for brushing
Wash the duck thoroughly under cold running water and pat dry with paper towel.
Dry-roast the peppercorns in a small, heavy-based frying pan over a medium–low heat, shaking the pan often, for 3–4 minutes, or until fragrant. Cool, then transfer to a mortar (or an electric spice grinder) and pound with the pestle to form a coarse powder. In a small bowl, combine the ground peppercorns and sea salt, and rub the mixture all over the duck, including the cavity.
Put the duck on a plate, then place the duck in a steamer over a wok or saucepan of boiling water. Cover and steam for 1 ¼ hours, or until just cooked through. Test to see if the duck is ready by piercing through the thigh — if the juices run clear it is cooked; if the juices are still pink, cook for another 5–10 minutes, then check again.
While the duck is steaming, line the base of a wok (large enough to hold a round cake rack) with a double layer of foil. Combine the tea leaves and sugar and spread over the foil. When the duck is ready, place the cake rack on the foil and then heat the wok over a medium heat until it starts to smoke. Place the duck, breast side up, on the rack, cover with a tight-fitting lid and smoke for 5 minutes, then turn the duck over, cover and smoke for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the duck rest, covered, for 10 minutes.
Remove the duck to a chopping board and brush all over with sesame oil. Using a cleaver, cut the duck through the bone into bite-sized pieces and serve warm or at room temperature.