Duck Demystified – Dani Valent

Do you cook with duck or do you duck for cover whenever you see a recipe including the quacking bird?

I think duck is a great protein, and definitely underused in home kitchens. I’ve teamed up with top chef Ian Curley and Luv-a-Duck to do a bit of duck demystifying and encourage you to try cooking duck at home.

Firstly, there’s a great duck recipe right here at Dani Valent. My Ginger Duck with Steamed Bao & Crispy Duck Skin (photo above left, by Kristoffer Paulsen) is really fun to make and absolutely delicious. You definitely want these bao (foldable dumplings) in your life, and I also share a really cool trick for crisping up duck skin. You’ll need to be a Dani Valent membership to watch the video. Already a member? Login here, friends!

Also, see recipes below for Dill Duck Curry with Citrus Cracked Wheat from my book In the Mix: Great Thermomix Recipes and Duck Breast with Pistachio Freekeh & Fennel & Radicchio Salad from In the Mix 2: More Great Thermomix Recipes. These are both great dishes to get your duck mojo happening.

Chef Ian Curley loves to use duck in his Melbourne restaurants. At the European, at the top end of the city, duck turns up in a Duck and Foie Gras Terrine, in Duck Ravioli with Pumpkin and Grapes and as Roasted Duck Breast with Radicchio and Cherries. “It’s a meat that keeps on giving,” he says. “You can cook the breast like a steak, use the leg meat in ragus, and strip the meat from the neck and put that in ravioli.

Ian’s French-style food offers many ways to deal with duck but he also loves using it – and eating it – in Chinese dishes. Peking duck is a classic, beloved all around the world, but Curley also suggests pairing duck with ginger, star anise and orange. “Duck has quite strong flavours so it goes with most cuisines,” he says. “Anything that you would put with pork, you can put with duck.”

Ian Curley knows that home cooks can find duck a little intimidating, so here are his tips for duck newbies.

  • Approach it like beef and chicken combined: the breast like a steak and the leg like a chicken drumstick.
  • Duck breast is best medium-rare. If you cook it too much, it will dry out. Ian leaves his duck breasts uncovered in the refrigerator for two days so the skin dries out. This helps it crisp up. When he cooks it, he puts it skin-side down in a cold, dry pan and sets it to a medium-high heat. As the duck heats up, the fat under the skin renders (melts) and becomes the cooking fat. The fat that is released can be saved and used for roasting potatoes or cooking duck legs (see below).
  • Duck leg is best slow-cooked. The classic French preparation for duck legs is to confit them, or slow-braise them in their own fat. This is how Ian does it. “I score the legs and marinate them in salt and garlic overnight. Then I brush off the salt and garlic. I set the oven to 120 degrees, and place enough duck fat to submerge the duck legs in an oven-proof dish. I put the duck legs in the fat, and into the oven for 6 to 8 hours, after which time the meat will be falling from the bone. Then, let the fat drain off (you can reuse it). Flake the meat from the bone and put it through risotto, toss it with pasta, or do it French-style and preserve it in jars.)

Dill Duck Curry with Citrus Cracked Wheat – Troy Payne

Chef Troy Payne came up with this dish after his Thai mother-in-law made a pork curry with heaps of dill. It’s an easy, soupy meal, both filling and flavourful. It’s also very spicy – cut the chilli quantity if you’d rather not raise a sweat.

Serves: 4
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes


  • 4 onions, peeled and halved
  • 6 long green chillies
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 80 grams ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 bunches dill
  • 1 bunch coriander
  • 4 duck legs, skin on
  • 200 grams burghul (cracked wheat) or freekeh (green wheat)
  • zest of 4 oranges
  • salt, to taste
Thermomix Dill Duck Curry recipe by Dani Valent Cooking

Photo: Greg Elms


1. Place the onions, chillies, garlic, ginger, dill and coriander into mixing bowl and process for 15 sec/speed 7.

2. Tuck the duck legs between the blades and pour in enough water to just cover. Cook for 60 min/100ºC/Reverse/speed soft.

3. While the duck is cooking, prepare the burghul or freekeh. Place the burghul in a bowl with the orange zest and cover with lukewarm water.

4. When the duck has cooked for an hour, drain the burghul and zest and add them to the mixing bowl. Cook for a further 20 min/100ºC/Reverse/speed soft. Check the seasoning and add salt, to taste.

Serve the curry in large bowls.

Duck Breast with Pistachio Freekeh & Fennel & Radicchio Salad

Steaming is a lovely way to prepare duck breast, but the skin is best when it’s crisp. This Middle Eastern-style dish offers the best of both worlds: duck breasts are steamed in the Varoma, then finished in a frypan to achieve crispy, golden skin. Freekeh (a type of wheat grain) is available in wholegrain and cracked versions. I love the nuttiness and bite of wholegrain freekeh but it does take longer to cook. If using cracked freekeh you can skip the precooking step. If you can’t find freekeh, use barley or brown rice.

Serves: 4
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes, plus 1 hour to marinate duck and precook freekeh.


  • 4 duck breasts, skin on
  • 1 tablespoon red chilli flakes
  • 1 tablespoon salt flakes, plus extra for freekeh and salad
  • 1 orange, zest and juice
  • 300 grams freekeh, cracked or wholegrain
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable stock concentrate
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 80 grams unsalted pistachio kernels
  • 1 onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 green chilli, seeds removed if desired
  • 50 grams olive oil, plus extra for freekeh and salad
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 900 grams chicken or vegetable stock
  • handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 radicchio, thinly shaved
  • 1 fennel, thinly shaved
  • juice of ½ lemon
Thermomix duck recipe Dani Valent Cooking

Photo: Greg Elms


1. Rub the duck breast flesh with the red chilli flakes, salt flakes and half the orange zest. Pour half the orange juice on to a tray and press duck flesh into it. Dry skin with kitchen paper and sprinkle with more salt flakes. Place tray in the refrigerator, uncovered, for the duck to dry out for an hour or two.

2. If using wholegrain freekeh, precook it now. Pour 1 kilogram cold water (and the vegetable stock concentrate, if desired) into mixing bowl. Weigh freekeh into the TM basket and cook for 30 min/100ºC/speed 4. Leave in TM basket and set aside. Clean and dry mixing bowl.

3. Place cumin, coriander, fennel seeds and black peppercorns into mixing bowl and toast for 3 min/100ºC/speed 1. Grind for 1 min/speed 9. Set aside.

4. Place pistachios into mixing bowl and chop roughly for 2 sec/speed 6. Set aside.

5. Place onion, garlic and green chilli into mixing bowl and chop 1 sec/speed 7. Scrape down sides of mixing bowl with spatula and add the olive oil. Cook for 5 min/100ºC/speed 1.

6. Add toasted spices, remaining orange juice and zest, thyme and chicken or vegetable stock. Set TM basket containing cracked freekeh or pre-cooked wholegrain freekeh into position. Rinse for 2 sec/speed 5, then cook for 20 min/100ºC/speed 4.

7. Arrange duck in the Varoma tray, set Varoma into position and cook for 15 min/Varoma/speed 1. Remove duck and set aside until ready to fry.

8. Continue to cook freekeh for 10 min/100ºC/speed 4. Once time has elapsed, remove freekeh and keep warm.

9. Make a sauce by reducing liquid remaining in the mixing bowl for 10 mins/100ºC/speed 2/MC off, with the TM basket resting on the lid, or until sauce has thickened.

10. While sauce is thickening, fry the duck. Add a little oil to a frypan and place on the stove over a moderate to high heat. Brown duck, skin side down, until dark golden and crisp. Set aside to rest in a warm place for a few minutes, then thickly slice duck to serve.

11. Toss freekeh with olive oil, mint, chopped pistachios and salt flakes to taste. Toss shaved radicchio and fennel with olive oil, lemon juice and salt flakes to taste.

Place duck breasts on a plate with the pistachio freekeh and the radicchio and fennel salad. Serve with the sauce.

I love my Elk top & Obus pants

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