Recently at work, we've been learning how to take a Fail Bow. When something goes wrong (horribly or otherwise) you should stand up, admit it isn't working and high five yourself for having a bash in the first place. The theory is people won't hide their mistakes and learn from them quickly. I have, as you'd expect, taken more than one Fail Bow in my short time in my current role.
My first recollection of a kitchen Fail Bow was cooking at home with my little brother (do you have a younger sibling who is way taller than you now you're both adults, but insist on still calling them your "little brother"? Me too!) We decided we wanted to make cheese and bacon balls. Dough kneaded, bacon fried and oil heated. Oil heated way too hot. Oil heated in a pan far too small. Dough hits oil. Kitchen fire erupts. Thankfully the only fatalities were Mum's old tea towels and, of course, five cheese and bacon balls (may they rest in peace).
I'll always remember the Chicken Mince and Kidney Bean Challenge of 2007 - a complete failure, unless my aim was to make a meal most reminiscent of cardboard. It was in my early working years and I didn't have the money to throw out an entire saucepan of food. I choked it down and swore, from that point on, I'd be a little more thoughtful in my ingredient combinations. Take a bow, move on.
I feel as though all my failures from kitchen experiments have been leading up to this point: my most epic win. I'll admit, it's pretty hard to eff up duck. That tasty bird is the gift that keeps on giving. But that's the key with experimentation: lead with something you're mildly confident with and you're off to a great start. This salad won't let you down.
So where to start? Well, I had two duck marylands going begging. Plum paste from our brioche days was crying out to be used. Plum and duck? Classic combo. But this was a thick paste and I wanted to up the Asian ante in this dish. Enter ginger and soy.
There's two pretty consistent rules to follow, particularly for savoury dishes, in my kitchen: taste as you go and find the balance. I had a sneaky dip in the dressing just before I was about to serve: too salty and lacking in sweetness (hard to believe, I know: I didn't add enough sugar to a dish). Another dollop of plum paste and we were good to go.
So, I understand if you haven't made up a batch of plum paste. (Note: I said understand. Not forgive.) What to use instead? Maybe a nice plum sauce? Maggie Beer also makes an amazing plum paste to serve with cheese that would do the trick. But you know what? Marmalade could work, or maybe apricot jam. Experiment. A failure's not the end of the world. And if it's that revolting and you can afford it, throw it in the bin. Take a bow, not a beating.
2 duck marylands
3cm piece ginger
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp plum paste
1 tsp soy sauce
salt and pepper
3cm piece ginger
2 tbsp plum paste
1 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp sesame oil
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 small red capsicum
1 cup snow peas, chopped
1/2 bunch coriander leaves
1/4 bunch mint leaves
4 spring onions
1 cup baby spinach leaves
200g singapore noodles
Preheat oven to 190ºC. To make duck marinade, peel the ginger and garlic and add with salt to a mortar. Pound with the pestle until each ingredient is a uniform texture. Add the remaining ingredients and mix to form a loose paste. Spread over the duck evenly. Place on a roasting tray and roast for around 40 minutes, or until a deep brown in colour.
To make dressing, julienne the ginger. Add with the remaining ingredients to a small jar and shake until combined. I had to whisk the plum paste a bit to break it up. Taste to make sure you have a good balance.
To make the salad, peel the carrots. Cut in half and cut into sticks around 1/2cm in width. Slice the capsicum into 1/2cm lengths. Wash the leaves and chop the spring onion finely. Prepare the noodles according to packet instructions.
Once the duck is cooked, slice roughly into small chunks. Mix with the salad ingredients. Dress just before serving.