Crispy Duck & Pineapple Salad

Serving size:2
Prep Time:
Total Time:
Crispy Duck & Pineapple Salad


  • 2 plump duck breasts
  • 2 tsp Chinese 5-spice, or Thai seven-spice powder
  • 51/3 tbsp 5 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 3 shallots
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose (plain) flour
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 small ripe pineapple
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 3 tbsp roasted peanuts
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 fat red chile pepper
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 1 bunch Thai or ordinary basil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper


Score crisscross lines into the duck skin using a very sharp knife. Take care not to cut own into the flesh. Scoring the skin like this will help the duck to cook evenly without shrinking and to release the fat from the skin as it cooks.

Put the duck onto a plate, then sprinkle with the spice powder and 1 teaspoon of the oil. Rub the spices right into the meat and skin. If you have time, cover with plastic wrap and let the duck marinate in the fridge for a few hours. Take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before you want to cook it. If not, then the time it takes you to make the salad will suffice.

Thinly slice the shallots and toss them in the flour with a pinch of salt. Heat the oil in a pan for a few minutes.* Line a plate or bowl with a few sheets of paper towel, ready for draining in a few minutes’ time.

Shake the excess flour from half the shallots, then pan-fry for 3-4 minutes, until golden brown all over and very crisp. You’ll need to stir them around to make sure they brown evenly, and take care toward the end of cooking, as they can easily burn. When the shallots are ready, use a slotted spoon to lift them from the oil and onto the paper to drain. Repeat with the second batch.

Cut the fennel bulb in half and remove any very tough outer layers. Thinly slice the fennel. Reserve the feathery leaves, if there are any.

Cut away the top and bottom of the pineapple, then cut away the spiky brown skin, removing all traces of brown from the flesh. ** A serrated knife is best for this job. Cut the pineapple into quarters, cut out the central paler and tougher core, then thinly slice the flesh. Add to the bowl with fennel

To make the dressing, put the garlic, peanuts, and sugar into a mortar. Very roughly chop half of the chili, including the seeds, and add that too.

Pound the ingredients with a pestle to make a very rough paste.*** Squeeze the juice from the lime. Mix in the fish sauce and 2 tablespoons of the lime juice and set aside. Dip a little bit of fennel into the dressing and check for seasoning. Add more sugar, chili, lime, or fish sauce if you think it needs it, but remember that the pineapple will add lots of tang later on.

When you’re ready to eat, season the duck breasts with salt and pepper, then put them skin-side down into a cold skillet or frying pan. Heat the pan over medium heat, then wait until the fat starts to run from the skin and you can hear a sizzle. Cook the duck for 8 minutes on this side, until most of the fat has run out from under the skin and the skin is crisp and golden. Spoon away most of the excess fat. Turn the duck over, then cook for another 6 minutes. This will give you duck that is just pink and juicy in the middle.

Set the duck on a board, then let it rest for 2-3 minutes. Slice the meat diagonally with a large knife.****

Toss the peanut dressing with the fennel and pineapple, then tear in the basil leaves.

Scoop the salad onto serving plates, then top with the duck, sprinkle with the crispy shallots and serve with more sliced red chilies if you like.

Peeling Shallots: If you find the skins won’t come away from the shallots easily, then try this simple trick. Cover the shallots with boiling water, then let soak for 5 minutes. Drain, then peel.

Is my pineapple ripe?: To check that your pineapple is ripe and ready to use, tug gently on one of the inner leaves sprouting from the crown. If it comes away easily, then it’s ready to eat. The fruit should also have an enticing sweet and fragrant smell.

No mortar and pestle?: If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, then you can pulse everything together in a small food processor, or simply crush the garlic, finely chop the chili and peanuts, then mix with the other ingredients.

Resting Meat: It’s really important to let the meat rest before you slice it. A couple of minutes will be enough for small pieces of meat or poultry like this-you want it to relax, but not to get cold. Cooking meat at high temperatures causes the muscle fibers to contract. As the meat rests, they loosen again. A rested piece of meat will be sitting in a little pool or juice and be easier to carve and tender to eat.

Recipe courtesy of Fresh & Easy: What to Cook and How to Cook It by Jane Hornby/Phaidon Press, 2012.