Once upon a long time ago, in my father's back garden there was a duck, or kacsa (pronounced cot-yah in Hungarian). I was a small child at the time and all I can remember is that it turned up one afternoon and quacked incessantly. It stayed long enough to chase me around the yard on numerous occasions, and it pooped all over the paving, much to the annoyance of my parents. And then, just as suddenly as it had appeared, the duck was gone.
I don't really know what happened to that duck (perhaps my mother cooked it?), but I do know that back then mini me had no idea that many decades later I would be sitting in a two-hatted Italian restaurant in Sydney eating the finest, most succulent duck imaginable!
In a day full of colour – from rich crimson flower arrangements with pops of bleeding blood oranges to a three course meal of kingfish, duck and cannoli - graced with the presence of the ever colourful Lucio Galletto OAM – Redbelly Citrus marked the start of the blood orange season with One bloody big seasonal feast at the renowned Lucio’s Italian Restaurant in Paddington.
Nicole Bampton, head chef of the Two Hatted restaurant, designed the three course menu using the first pick of Redbelly’s 2016 crop to highlight the distinct raspberry notes showing in the fruit this year.
'At Lucio’s, we follow the season not the fashion, so we were absolutely delighted to partner Redbelly to craft a menu to showcase an in-season fruit that really excites me. Aside from being incredibly beautiful, blood oranges are great fun to work with. They have a complex flavour profile – they’re just as sweet as a navel, but they have an added tartness that balances the sweetness - making them perfect for sweet or savoury dishes. They also exhibit many different berry-like flavours that come through depending on the season and growing conditions,' said chef Nicole.
Grown in the heart of the Riverina where climatic conditions are closest to those of Sicily, Redbelly blood oranges have a distinct flavour that is very reminiscent of Sicilian blood oranges. More so than blood oranges grown in other regions of Australia.
Len Mancini, director of Redbelly Citrus (pictured at the end of this article) and third generation citrus farmer, says that the growing region is the best indication of the quality and intensity of a blood orange.
'Contrary to common belief, the external colour or blush on the skin is not a good indicator of internal colour. The best predictor of good internal colour is the region they are grown in. We’ve had a bumper season and encourage chefs, mixologists and home cooks to get them on their menu! They are unbelievably delicious with the added bonus of being incredibly good for you as the only citrus fruit to contain anthocyanins, which have been proven to have a range of health benefits, including countering the effects of UV damage, pollution and even the effects of poor diets that would otherwise lead to obesity and other metabolic syndromes,' he said.
I asked Len if he would share his thoughts as a citrus grower and cook on how best to use blood oranges:
'One thing I have come to appreciate over the ten years we have had our blood orange orchard is that when used in cooking, you should be aware of the levels of acid in the fruit as that will determine how best to use them. The high acid levels in blood oranges is one of their unique features and one which really makes them useful in a wide range of dishes. For example, when the acids are high, as in the case of early season blood oranges, there is a sweet/sour profile that makes them incredibly delicious when paired with fatty meats such as pork and poultry, duck especially,' he explained.
'Bake them with sardines, poach chicken with them and pop fresh ones in the roasting pan, glaze a ham with the reduced juice. All of these dishes take advantage of the sweet and sour profile of the blood orange. Towards September the acids in the fruit drop away revealing the berry like flavour and a more violet colouring. It is at this point I switch over to desserts like jellies, gelatos, pannacottas and paired with rhubarb or hazelnuts in amazing cakes. The colour comes through in many of the desserts, and the delicate flavour can be appreciated without the heavy flavours found in the savoury dishes.'
Postcards and morsels - One bloody big seasonal feast at Lucio's...
At the season launch at Lucio's, titled One bloody big seasonal feast, diners enjoyed a superb banquet, starting with a fresh first course of Crudo di Pesce – kingfish carpaccio with blood orange segments, fennel, verjus, watercress and olives, finished with a blood orange dressing.
The main – Anatra all’Arancia featured a classic combination of orange and duck. Succulent duck marinated in blood orange juice served with grilled radicchio, roasted beetroot and a blood orange sauce. Actually, this was THE MOST SUCCULENT duck I have ever tasted, and confirms my belief that citrus and poultry makes for a beautiful marriage. I am delighted to share the recipe with you, below.
And to finish the feast, guests noshed on Cannoli di Cioccolato – thin, crisp chocolate cannoli shells filled with a light blood orange mousse served with a chocolate blood orange sauce.
Lucio Galletto OAM, owner of Lucio's, welcomed guests, introducing each course, explaining the flavour pairings. He also shared stories of his love for blood oranges, stretching back to his childhood in Italy.
William Grant & Sons also joined the festivities with Solerno brand ambassador, Evonne Eadie, mixing exquisite blood orange cocktails to accompany the meal, including the Solerno Serata and a Solerno Blood Orange Espresso Martini served with dessert. (More on Solerno in an upcoming article).
And now for the recipe for Anatra all’Arancia - duck with blood orange...
ROAST DUCK, BEETROOT, GRILLED RADICCHIO AND BLOOD ORANGE SAUCE
1 duck (size no 20)
2 large beetroot, peeled and cut into quarters
1 radicchio, cut into eights
3 blood oranges
1 litre chicken or duck stock
cracked black pepper
potato wedges, to accompany
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Rinse duck and pat dry with absorbent paper. Place the duck on a wire rack placed in a roasting pan. Season the skin with sea salt and black pepper and blood orange zest, fill the cavity with one blood orange, which you have cut in half.
Roast the duck for 30 minutes, and then add the beetroot segments, turning to coat in the rendered duck fat. Continue to cook for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 150 degrees C and cook for another 1½ hours or until the duck is golden and crisp.
In a small saucepan, carmelise the sugar over a medium heat. Once it has turned brown (but not dark) in color, add the juice of two blood oranges and reduce the liquid by half. Then add the stock and reduce to 1/3.
Once the duck is cooked, remove from the oven and leave to rest uncovered. In the meantime, drizzle the radicchio with oil and grill or pan fry the wedges until browned and softened.
Carve the duck and serve it atop the radicchio and roasted beetroots, finished with the reduced blood orange sauce and a side of potato wedges. Serves 2.
The Good Things team attended One bloody big seasonal feast at Lucio's in Sydney as guests of Redbelly Citrus and the Mancini family. The recipe appears kind courtesy of Lucio Galleto OAM and his head chef, Nicole Bampton (thank you!). We stayed overnight in Sydney at our own expense. This is not a sponsored post. Most of the photographs appear courtesy of Redbelly Citrus.
Tell me dear readers, does duck feature often on the menu at your place? Have you ever owned a duck or eaten at Lucio's? And do you love blood oranges as much as I do?
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.