Duck Curry in Clay
There is not a special reason to make a duck curry today. True, spring is getting closer, and I am so looking forward to spring after frosty winter weather. I am also cooking up a storm in the meantime. So, I thought I wanted to create my own recipe twist for a change. Making a good Sri Lankan duck curry in a clay pot had been a long-awaited milestone on my cooking journey. What other better way is there to celebrate your birthday than achieving one of the goals you created for yourself. I set out to achieve that goal.
Duck is among favorite dishes to eat during Christmas. It is not a one we eat often. Now that our whole family is much more health conscious, and all our meals are plant based It is even more special when I choose to cook one of these rare delights.
We tried and loved lots of duck recipes over the past from east Asia and Chinese restaurants in the past. I made couple of attempts on roast duck myself. But I do not consider my roast duck attempts have been all that successful in the past. I knew in my heart I can make a mean duck recipe, but somehow it took it is time and research.
Secrets to Making a Great Duck Curry
Any dish with duck becomes extraordinarily rich and luxurious. The bird has lots of fat under the skin and flavor on the meat which makes the dish rich and satisfying. All good duck recipes leave crispy skin crusted with salt and seasoning left by rendering lots of this fat out during the cooking. That can become a problem when you are making a curry because all those fat in the curry is going to make the sauce very fatty. With that all the beautiful spices we use will dissolve more in the fat layer and make our eating experience not so favorable. We do need to partially render out the fat, giving a quick golden seer to the skin. We need to infuse the flavor and aroma into the skin before cooking and infuse the flavor to the meat during the cooking and resting. Therefore, after searing, I did cut the whole duck meat to small pieces before cooking the curry. Cooking a cubed or cut meat is the way to go if you want to flavor the meat equally. Making this curry in a covered clay curry pot is further important in getting the flavor infused while the curry sauce is simmering away.
Flavoring and seasoning the Duck for a curry.
I did study cooking methods and seasoning choices around the world before settling down with the following blend. Cooking duck in a curry is one time you cannot shy away from seasoning. Marinating in two steps and choosing a good blend of aromatic seasoning is helpful in developing the richness and silky texture in the sauce leaving just enough aroma and flavor in the meat. When you get one spoonful with little bit of rice, meat, and the sauce just enough to coat everything in one bite, it truly gives you one-of-a-kind eating experience.
Prepping and cooking the Duck for Cooking
Step One; First marinade and searing the skin.
I am using a whole duck to cook the curry today.
Rinse the duck with cold running tap water and pat dry with kitchen towels. Trim out some of the fat with kitchen shears. Then, with a sharp knife slice the skin just above the muscle. Set the Duck aside on roasting rack with a pan and make the aromatic seasoning rub for searing the skin. Blend of excellent quality black tea, Indian bay leaf and fennel is going to give the skin wonderful aroma and help add another layer of flavors while serving. One thing to note is Indian basil is quite different from Italian basil and Thai basil. You can find it in any Indian grocery store. If you cannot find it, you could try adding pinch of ground Ceylon cinnamon to the final rub.
- 2 tbsp turmeric
- Tablespoon of dry toasted fennel
- 2 tbsp coriander
- One Indian Bay leaf dry toasted
- Tsp of tea
Grind the spices with mortar and pastel. Rub and pack the seasoning well in to skin. Turn the Hi Broil setting on and broil for 2 minutes per side or nice golden-brown crust develops. keep an eye on, prevent any burning. After about five minutes turn the heat low (low broil) and seer the skin for 10 minutes per side and let some of the fat render out. Save little bit of the rendered duck fat for making the curry.
Ideally cut the meat using curry cut method, however, size is up to you. Duck meat is not going to fully cook under this step. We are just rendering some of the fat out and getting a good portion of aromatic spices burned into skin.
Step Two; Making the Curry Base.
While duck is cooling on rack, is the perfect timing to make a roasted curry seasoning custom made for this curry itself. Inspiration for my duck curry seasoning from my grandmother’s chicken curry, also, from African and Kerala seasoning blends for similar curries. Sri Lankan cooking methods and seasoning techniques often has a deep-set root to Africa, India, and southern Europe if you look at the history bit closer. Sri Lanka being an island we had visitors, invaders, and settlers from all over the world it is hardly surprising that our way of cooking has best bits of everything that our ancestors, saw, heard, and learned.
Curry seasoning powder began by measuring whole spices and toasting them on dry skillet and grinding them on my mortar and pastel. Whenever, I am making a new curry powder blend, I use whole spices and go from there to get maximum flavor out.
- Cup of toasted coriander
- Half a cup of whole Cumin
- Two Indian Bay leaves toasted
- 4-inch stick of cinnamon
- ¼ cup toasted of fennel seeds
- 2 tbsp warmed up black Cumin
- Tablespoon of cloves
- ¼ cup toasted dry white rice
- ¼ cup of crushed black pepper
- 2 tbsp mustard
- 2 tbsp of turmeric
- Twenty dry whole red peppers toasted
Use a dry heavy bottomed skillet to toast coriander, cumin, black cumin, fennel seeds, dry white rice, whole red peppers, and Indian bay leaves. Grind everything together except for bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom pods. Crush the Indian bay leaves and cinnamon and add to the powder and leave cloves and cardamom whole. Pack in an airtight jar and give it a good shake to mix it up. You can store the seasoning in freezer, and it will stay good for six plus month.
Step Three; Making the curry
- Two whole onions caramelized
- Three tablespoons of mung dal fried until brown
- 2 tbsp of duck curry seasoning powder
- 2 tbsp of Spanish paprika
- One inch piece of Ginger minced
- Three cloves of garlic minced
- Curry leaves handful
- 2 tbsp rendered duck fat
- Salt to taste
- Two cups of water
Everything ready to go, now it is time to make duck curry in Clay. In a small wok, fry three tablespoon of split mung dal until golden, set aside. Finely dice two medium sized red onions. Caramelize the onions until golden brown. Grind the caramelized onions, fried mung dal, paprika, salt, rendered duck fat ginger, and garlic together.
Add the curry powder blend we made to the seasoning paste and mix well. (Make sure to add at least two whole cardamom pods and two cloves). Coat the pieces of meat well and pack into the clay curry pot. Lay out the lemongrass and curry leaves on top of the meat and add water and cover the pot. Cook on medium low flame for one hour or until meat is cooked thoroughly. Carefully scrape the bottom every 15 minutes to redistribute the sauce. Also most importantly remove the duck fat that separates on the top while cooking. Do not have any worry of removing the flavor by taking the top layer out, because there is going to be plenty of flavor left in the curry. I took out almost 12 oz of wonderfully seasoned duck fat while the curry is cooking up.
This curry is perfect match with Paratha, rice, or with String hoppers (Steamed rice noodles)
This duck curry is labor of love. I truly was excited to make it and share it with you all. In all my excitement I hope I did not make a boring read for you. In my defense, I left no intricate details unsaid! I hope you would take time to try it. Joy and flavor of it is truly one of a kind and so much packed with flavor.
Let me know in the comment section what you think of my recipe. Also subscribe to my blog for more great recipes, meal ideas and chance to receive a free mystery curry seasoning pack.
Thank you for staying with me on my journey.