Whilst very briefly in Beijing recently, I was sent off to a wonderfully recommended Sichuan inspired restaurant. I have only just stopped glowing and my mouth no longer hums with the aftershock more commonly associated with a pretty severe session with a hardcore dentist. As absolutely delicious as it almost all was; the mouth numbing intensity that the sweet and innocent Sichuan peppercorn offers, in combination with the fried red chilli peppers which were in glorious abundance in the dishes, there is only so much a man can take.
Hoping to take the heat and intensity down a notch here, but try and retain the fragrant element of what this amazing cuisine does offer.
Sichuan pepper roasted duck with plum and star anise
4 duck legs
2 tblsp crushed Sichuan peppercorns
For the plum sauce
3 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
450g plums, halved and stoned
Juice of 1 lime
A dash of fish sauce, plus a little to taste if necessary
Steamed rice, to serve
Preheat the oven to its highest setting. Pierce the skin of the duck all over with a fork. Combine the peppercorns with a teaspoon of salt and rub all over the duck legs so they are nicely coated. Place on a wire rack (with a tray underneath to catch the fat) in the oven.
Immediately turn the temperature down to 350F/180C/Gas 4 and cook for two hours until the skin is golden and the meat begins to flake away from the bone easily.
Meanwhile, make the plum sauce by combining the sugar in a saucepan with 200ml water, the star anise and the cinnamon. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for five minutes until slightly reduced. Add the plums and cook until they are soft and have broken down slightly (how long will depend on the size of your plums).
Take off the heat, squeeze in the lime juice and pour in the fish sauce. Taste and add a dash more fish sauce if you feel it. Spoon over the duck and serve immediately with steamed rice. Smother with a couple of dozen crispy red chillis here at your peril, this is absolutely optional.