Curing meat and fish sounds very cheffy and possibly a bit challenging but in fact it is a very simple process which has been practised for hundreds of years. Here TATIANA BENTO of the MARMALADE COOKERY SCHOOL demystifies the process and gives step by step instructions on how to produce a cured duck breast “prosciutto”.
There is a lot to be said for curing meat and fish at home. However, if salting and hanging a whole pig’s leg in your kitchen to make Parma Ham sounds a bit ambitious; how about starting with something smaller, like duck breasts.
This is an incredibly simple recipe that makes the perfect summer lunch. You’ll have to plan ahead for
this one, as it needs to hang in your fridge for 12 days before serving.
For the duck
2 Duck breasts, about 250 -300g each
200g coarse Sea Salt
3 tsp of peppercorns, crushed (optional)
5 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked (optional)
A small handful of juniper berries (optional)
For the Salad
The balsamic reduction:
4 Tbsp Modena Balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp Honey
200g mixed salad
(endives, frisee lettuce, chicory, spinach, rocket)
100g log of French goat cheese
2 Tbsp pine nuts
Freshly ground black pepper
Muslin or cheese cloth
For the duck:
Start by preparing your cure, which is the salt mixture
used to draw moisture out of the meat. Without this step the meat would simply perish, instead of maturing.
Grab a bowl and mix the salt, crushed pepper, thyme leaves and juniper berries together. That’s your cure done.
Tip #1:If you want to make different flavour prosciuttos you can change your spices around. Try orange zest, star anise, dried chilli flakes, sage leaves, fennel seeds, lemon zest, white pepper, nutmeg, ground clove, paprika, etc…
Now get a hold of your duck breasts and pat them dry with some kitchen paper. Massage a bit of your cure into each size of the breasts. Take a glass or ceramic dish (not metal) and spread a layer of your cure on the bottom, place your duck breast on top and cover with the remaining cure. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge for 24 hours.
Halfway through the curing process, when the breasts have been in the salt for about 12 hours, turn them and re-cover with the cure to ensure an even contact with the salt.
Tip #2:The container should have a flat bottom and have just enough space for your duck breasts as these should be tightly packed.
Tip #3:Try Goose or pigeon breasts instead for something a bit different.
After 24 hours rinse the duck breasts, making sure you remove the majority of the cure. Pat dry with kitchen paper.
Wrap each breast separately in muslin, tie with string and hang in your fridge for about 12 days.
Tip #4:Once cured it can be kept in a sealed container in the fridge for up to one month.
For the salad:
Start by preparing your balsamic reduction as this needs to cool down. In a small saucepan bring balsamic vinegar to a low boil and cook down the vinegar until it becomes a thin syrup. Add the honey and a pinch of salt. Give a taste and check for seasoning. Leave to cool completely.
Now it’s time to get your duck out. Using a sharp knife, slice the duck prosciutto paper-thin or as thin as possible.
Tip #5:It really makes a difference if your knife is sharp. We always use our sushi knife to carve our duck.
Now it’s time to tackle the figs. Place a frying pan on a high heat. Cut the figs in half. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Put the figs on a hot pan, cut-side down. Cook for 1-2 minutes just to get a bit of colour.
Plate up the salad leaves. Top with duck slices, roasted fig and a slice of goats cheese. Drizzle with balsamic reduction and serve with a sprinkle of pine nuts.