I love a bit of urban foraging. Turning a corner and seeing rosehips, blackberries, wild garlic, the random edibles that grow in random places. This summer I even found a wild apple tree in the hedgerow at the end of the train track.
Another type of urban foraging I love is not really foraging at all, although I call it so. I love finding ethnic food shops and exploring their shelves looking for previously undiscovered delights that I can use at home in my kitchen.
A few years ago, one such forage yielded a bag of mograbiah in a Turkish shop. Like giant “giant cous cous” (really Israeli cous cous – widely available in the Jewish section of larger supermarkets and Jewish food shops), I wondered what it was. The instructions were illegible to me, so I chucked it in my basket and approached the counter.
I intended to ask the lady at the checkout for some advice, when she picked it up and looked at it, and I thought – SWEET! She’s going to tell me what to do with it. What she actually said was – I’ve always wondered what to do with this, do you know what it is?
Ah well. Not to worry, I love a challenge and a little kitchen adventure.
The mograbiah cooks like pasta, and in 15 minutes. It has a fantastically bouncy texture, and is great for supporting other flavours as it doesn’t really have a strong one of its own. Seriously useful then, and a little different too.
The duck, well it’s that season isn’t it? There’s game everywhere and I fancied a little bit of duck. I love roast duck, and duck legs with crispy skins and fork tender flesh, but I also love duck breast, cooked pink, with lovely crispy skin.
How to cook it? I often spice it, but I wanted to veer from that. Duck loves fruit (plum sauce, with cherries, a l’orange etc.) and I had a fantastically fruity and rich balsamic vinegar from Belazu that I knew would be a perfect partner. It’s rich and syrupy, sweet with a tang that would be great with the duck fat. Some aromatic thyme would give it some nice herbaceous notes,and smoked sea salt I find irresistible at the moment, although normal sea salt would do.
What to serve with it? I decided on a bed of bouncy mograbiah salad (why else would I rattle on about it at the start?), with some meaty fried aubergine, fruity fresh tomatoes, and some very thinly sliced acidic onions threaded through the other ingredients. Just one regret, it needed some flat leaf parsley, but you can add that when you make it at home.
It’s a quick dish. In total, if organised and excluding marination time, you could put it together in half an hour. It’s flavours belie this speed, big bolshy and still gentle, it’s a Winter treat. A quality balsamic is important, the Belazu one is really good being fruity and sharp. It’s £12.99 but worth it, a recommended kitchen investment.
WINE: this was lovely with an NZ Pinot Noir. We had one from the Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Range which was actually very good when allowed to breathe for half an hour or so. It was a quite reasonable £9.99 too. Quite fruity and light, it worked well with the fruity balsamic vinegar and is a great partner for duck anyway. More traditional Burgundy Pinot Noirs would work very well too.
Balsamic & Thyme Duck with Aubergine & Tomato Mograbiah
1 average aubergine, diced
8 cherry/baby plum tomatoes, halved
half a red onion, sliced down the middle, and sliced finely after that
a handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
2 duck breasts
5 tbsp good balsamic (it needs to be rich)
6 or so sprigs of thyme, leaves removed from the stems
Smoked sea salt or normal sea salt, to season
Combine the balsamic & thyme and marinade the duck in it, skin side down, for at least an hour.
Fry the aubergine in a little oil for 10 – 15 minutes until brown and cooked.
Cook the mograbiah by boiling in salted water for 15 minutes or until tender.
Combine the mograbiah, aubergine, tomatoes, onion and parsley and dress with some olive oil. Balsamic is optional but not necessary as there will be a strong flavour of that from the duck.
Heat a solid based frying pan to a low heat, and fry the duck breasts, skin side down for about 8 minutes until most of the fat has rendered out.
Take the duck out, pour off the fat and quickly rinse the pan (it will be quite sticky) before heating to a medium-high heat, and crisping the duck skin a little for a minute or so. Don’t worry too much if it looks black, the balsamic will do that.
Turn down the heat to medium, and cook the flesh side of the duck for about 4 minutes, when the duck should be cooked to pink. You can check by cutting through the end of one, you will be serving it in slices anyway. For the last minute or so, add the remaining marinade and let it reduce to a sticky sauce which you can pour over the meat. Yoyu may want to thin it out, depending on how much you have left.
Rest the duck for a few minutes, season, then slice and serve on top of the mograbiah.