Three lucky Lunar New Year recipes with kumquat
Considered auspicious, kumquats are ubiquitous at this time of year. Susan Jung puts the fruit to good use in these delicious dishes.
The kumquat is an unusual citrus fruit: unlike most other types, its rind is sweet while the flesh is tart. The whole fruit is edible, though most people prefer to remove the seeds. Outside Asia, kumquats are often considered exotic but, in Hong Kong, especially during the Lunar New Year, you can see them everywhere - growing on potted trees outside homes and businesses (they're said to bring good fortune). But don't try to eat those as they have usually been drenched in pesticides. For these dishes, source your kumquats from a trusted supplier of fresh fruit.
Hamachi carpaccio with kumquat oil and pink peppercorn
This dish is an easy and pretty appetiser.
240-320 grams sushi-grade hamachi, sliced about 5mm thick
80ml extra-virgin olive oil
10 kumquats, divided
1 slightly heaped tsp pink peppercorns, or as needed
Rough-flaked sea salt, such as Maldon or fleur de sel
Fresh herbs, such as chervil or Italian parsley
Make the kumquat oil first, so it has time to steep. Use a pestle to roughly crush four of the kumquats then put them in a bowl and add the olive oil. Thinly slice the remaining kumquats, removing the seeds as you go, then put the slices in the oil and leave at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
Roughly crush the pink peppercorns.
Divide the hamachi slices into four portions. Lay a sheet of cling-film smoothly on the work surface. Put the slices of fish in a circle over the cling-film, leaving a little space between each slice. Cover with another sheet of cling-film then use the flat side of a meat mallet to gently pound the slices thin. Repeat with the remaining slices. Stack the hamachi - still in the cling-film sheets - on a flat tray and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Peel away the top sheet of cling-film from one portion of hamachi. Invert the fish onto a serving plate and peel away the other sheet of cling-film. Drizzle some of the kumquat oil over the hamachi then add a few of the slices from the oil. Sprinkle with pink peppercorns and rough-flaked salt, then garnish with the herbs, if desired. The remaining kumquat oil should be strained, the fruit being discarded, then stored in a glass jar in the refrigerator.
Spiced kumquat preserve
600 grams sugar
¼ tsp fine sea salt
1-2 cinnamon stick (about 6cm long), broken into pieces
4 whole cloves
About 30ml fresh lemon juice
Rinse the kumquats then drain them. Use a sharp knife to cut them into rounds about 5mm thick, setting aside the seeds. In a large bowl, mix the sliced fruit with the salt, sugar and 300ml of cold water. Stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, macerate for several hours at room temperature (or in the fridge overnight). Scrape the contents of the bowl into a large, wide pan and add the cinnamon and cloves. Put the reserved kumquat seeds in a square of clean, unbleached cheesecloth, tie tightly with kitchen twine and add it to the pan. Bring to the boil over a medium-high flame, stirring frequently. Lower the flame then simmer the ingredients, stirring frequently. As the mixture thickens, you'll need to lower the heat and stir more often so the preserves don't burn.
Cook until the preserves reach the setting point - the fruit will be translucent and when you spoon some of the mixture onto a cold plate, it will hold its shape. Remove the cheesecloth containing the seeds from the pan and fish out the cloves. Stir in the lemon juice then ladle the mixture into sterilised canning jars (pour boiling water into the jars, leave for about 10 minutes then invert them to drain), putting a piece of cinnamon stick into each jar. Wipe the mouth of each jar with a damp cloth then cover with sterilised canning lids. Place the jars upright on a rack in a deep pan and add enough boiling water to cover the jars. Bring the water to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes then remove the jars and leave at room temperature until cool. If you want to skip the canning process, store the jars in the fridge.
Duck breast with spiced kumquat sauce
2 duck breasts
15ml cooking oil
15ml unsalted butter
1 large shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
20 kumquats, quartered from top to stem
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
1 star anise, broken into pieces
6 whole black peppercorns
½ tsp whole black mustard seeds
60ml champagne vinegar
Granulated sugar, if needed
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Use a sharp knife to score the skin of the duck breasts in a cross-hatch pattern, taking care not to cut into the flesh. Pat the breasts dry with paper towels. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the skin and flesh and leave for about 30 minutes at room temperature, then pat dry again with paper towels. Heat a grill pan (preferably cast- iron) until very hot and put the breasts skin-side down into the pan. Cook until seared on one side then turn the breasts over and sear the other side. Turn them over again so they're skin-side down then lower the heat, cover the pan and cook for about seven minutes (for rare), or until done to your liking. Remove the lid and cook for one minute, then put the breasts skin-side up on warm plates.
Make the sauce while the duck is cooking. Heat the oil and butter in a skillet, add the shallot and cook over a low flame until soft. Add the garlic, cinnamon, star anise, peppercorns and mustard seeds and stir constantly for about a minute. Mix in the kumquat and champagne vinegar, then simmer, stirring occasionally, until the kumquat is tender. Taste the sauce and if it's too acidic, add a little sugar.
Season with salt and pepper, then serve with the duck breasts cut across the grain into thick slices.
Styling: Corner Kitchen Cooking School