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Masterchef Australia season 2 is finally over, and I have to congratulate Adam Liaw for making this far and claimed the title. Time flies, I still remember my Masterchef Audition in September last year and what a coincidence to be in the same group as Adam and Alvin, and both Malaysians. Well, I shouldn’t be surprise, just look at the number of Malaysian food bloggers in Australia:

(I am sure there are more, let me know and comment so I can add you to the list)

And what does that tell you? Yes, Malaysians do love food, we even greet each other by saying “Have you eaten yet?” (Sek Bao Mei?) instead of the usual hello, how are you. Just go and hang out with a Malaysian for one day, you will know what I am saying.

Friends still asking me whether I will give Masterchef another try. As much as I hate the padded dramas, the crying and the personal life stories, the fire balls and all the unnecessary suspense; I do think Masterchef is a great show that has really made a big impact on the eating habit of this nation, and why wouldn’t I want to be part of it if my cooking skill can really inspire the others who watch the show? Besides, there are still a lot of things I could learn and even now I am still pushing myself to cook something that I’ve never done before. A roast duck just like this post, for instance. Yep, it is something I’ve never done before and this is my very first roast duck.

I do have a soft spot for Chinese roast duck. That paper thin layer of crispy duck skin and the juicy dark fatty flesh with the hint of five spice and star anise – all you need now is a dash of hoisin sauce, wrap together with cucumber and scallions in a soft steamy pancake and you have a winner.

Unfortunately I can’t really get good roast duck at where I live. The local Asian supermarket does have the ducks delivered to them from No.1 BBQ House at Campsie on every Monday and Thursday and keep it the fridge. Yep, the cold, wrinkly duck for you to reheat in the oven. Hence, when I came across fresh whole duck for sale at the supermarket the other day and decided to get them a go and roast it myself. I was in roasting mood at that time, since I already roasted a chicken, a duck can’t be that difficult right?

I do not really have a recipe to follow but I do love the aroma and flavour of a Peking Duck and decided to mix my own spices. The most distinctive flavour on a Peking Duck is the five spice and the star anise. But to add sweetness to the meat, onions and garlics are essential ingredients and will do the job nicely. To penetrate the duck with all the flavours, I put the bulky ingredients into the cavity which will be steamed when cooking and infused the flesh from inside out, and a spices mix to run on the skin.

My spices mix rub is very simple by keeping the flavour earthy using cinnamon, peppercorns, Sze Chuan peppercorns, salt, white pepper and that’s it. You can add star anise to the mix too, but since I don’t have a mortar and pestle and neither a food processor, it will be too difficult for me to pound it into powder form, so I only use the star anise inside the cavity of the duck.

To seal the cavity, I simply use a skewer stick to make a simple zig-zag incision. But make sure the seal is on the top when roasting, or else all the cooking juices will escape and flow down into the baking tray along with the duck fat and we don’t want that, as we do need to keep them separate for later use. The duck juice is the ‘liquid gold’ as George will say on Masterchef, you can simply drizzle the juice on steamed rice and call it a meal. And I was so surprised to see how much duck fat was accumulated in the baking tray after finishing roasting it. I kept the duck fat and used it to roast potatoes for the Christmas in July party and it was a hit! So don’t discard the duck fat and it keeps very well in the fridge. Bake them potatoes in duck fat whenever you have special guests over for dinner and they will think you are an amazing cook!

I also didn’t want the wing tips to burn too quickly and wrapped them up with cling foil which ended up a pointless move anyway. The wing tips didn’t burned, but the skin was stuck to the foil and I pulled the whole tip off when I tried to unwrap it. So yeah, don’t bother to wrap them up, let it cook as is and keep an eye on it.

Have to say I am very proud with my first attempt and the flavour is fabulous. The duck is tender but it did get a little dry on the scrawny parts like the wings. Who cares about the dry wings when I can have all the crispy skins?

Here’s my recipe if you want to give it a try, nothing beat a crispy roast duck straight out of the oven.

Chinese Five Spice Roast Duck recipe
(An original recipe by Billy Law)

Ingredients
1 whole duck
1 crushed garlic
1 onion (quartered) (I used red onion, optional)
1 cinnamon stick
5 star anise
1 handful peppercorn mix (just use black peppercorn, if you don't have mix)
1 tsp of white pepper
1 tsp of cinnamon powder
1 tbsp of SzeChuan peppercorn
3 tbsp of good quality sea salt ( I used Himalayan pink salt)

1 cucumber
1 tsp of salt
1 tbsp of sugar
1 tbsp of light soy sauce
sesame oil to taste

Method
1. Preheat the oven at 200C.

2. Clean the duck inside out and pluck all the feathers out then pat dry with paper towel.

3. Add garlic, onion, star anise, cinnamon stick inside the cavity of the duck. Seal the cavity with a skewer by making a zig-zag incision.

4. Grind peppercorn mix, white pepper, cinnamon powder, salt, SzeChuan peppercorns in a mortar and pestle into powder form. Rub the spices mix onto the duck skin all over and put it on a roasting tray with wire rack.

5. A quick zig-zag drizzle of olive oil on the duck then place it in the oven, and roast it for 1 hour and 20 mins or until the duck is deep golden brown. Rotate the tray to the other side at 30 mins interval.

6. Take the duck out and lift the wire rack along with the duck and set a side to let it cool. Now you will be amazed how much duck fat is gathered in the tray. Pour the duck fat into a jar for roasting potatoes.

7. Once the duck is cool enough to handle, remove the skewer stick gently and pour all the juice inside the cavity into a bowl, discard the spices through a strainer. Add light soy sauce and sesame oil to taste and now it is a beautiful condiment sauce for your meal.

8. Slice the crispy duck skin thinly, then the meat. Or if you prefer, just chop the duck up like the BBQ shop, whichever way suits you.

9. Serve when still hot, with condiments of hoisin sauce, pickled cucumber, and the "juice".

Note: Pickled Cucumber - slice the cucumber length way thinly, add salt and sugar with a ratio of 1:3 (1 teaspoon of salt to 3 teaspoon of sugar), mix well together and leave it in the fridge for at least 10 mins but no longer than 1 hour.