Thursday, 31 July 2014

Duck, cherry and beetroot salad with Lambrusco

A couple of weeks ago we were treated to a particularly memorable meal at Quo Vadis that featured a main course salad of duck with cherries and beetroot, topped with crunchy toasted breadcrumbs. It was the perfect dish for a warm summer evening. Grown up and satisfying, yet not too earnest – large pieces of crisp, salty duck skin were a deliciously naughty touch.

We had friends round for dinner last Friday and I recreated it as a starter. Flicking through my new copy of Diana Henry's A Change of Appetite I noticed a recipe for goat's cheese and cherry salad in which she macerates the cherries in brandy or grappa, along with olive oil, white balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. I used kirsch, olive oil and apple balsamic (I don't yet have any white balsamic) and found the dressing didn't need any lemon juice, leaving them for a couple of hours or so before combining with salad leaves, sliced cooked beetroot and the flesh and skin from duck legs I'd roasted earlier. The crunchy breadcrumbs were made by roasting chunks of bread in the pan used for the duck. Once they had dried out I scraped the pan thoroughly to incorporate all the tasty duck bits and then pounded the toasted bread in a pestle and mortar.

We enjoyed it with a bottle of Albinea Canali Lambrusco Ottocentonero from the Wine Society (a steal at £7.95) – dry, fresh and appetising with plenty of lush cherry fruit and spot on with the salad. It was a steal at £7.95, but has (not surprisingly) sold out. However, their other Lambrusco would also be worth trying, but keep an eye out elsewhere, especially while dining out, for proper dry examples (not to be confused with the naff sweet versions of the past). Following New York's lead, interest in this 'forgotten gem' is growing in the UK where, for example, Ottolenghi restaurants report booming sales. Great news for summer drinking.

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