Make something Simple & Classic for Chinese New Year
Don't order take-out to celebrate the Year of the Pig. Jane Hornby’s crispy duck pancakes are a cinch!
Though it’s hard not to divide food up along national lines, good cookery knows no bounds. Jane Hornby's new book, Simple & Classic, features 123 step-by-step recipes for dishes drawn from across the world. In these pages, mushroom risotto sits alongside coq au vin, red velvet whoopie pies and paella.
Even dishes developed far from Hornby’s home in Great Britain made it into the book. Her recipe for crispy duck pancakes might not call for quite the same array of spices as the version in China: the Cookbook, but you’re very likely to find all Jane’s ingredients at your local store, and whip it up in time for Chinese New Year tonight, and she’s even included a few work arounds, just in case you can’t get all you’re looking for.
“If you can’t find thin Chinese pancakes in the store, try flour tortillas instead,” Jane advises. “Chinese pancakes are also made with flour, so the flavour is similar. If the tortillas are larger, cut them in half and wrap around the filling in.”
Nice tip. Though Jane also adds that you shouldn’t overthink this recipe. “There’s no secret to making this classic Chinese dish,” she adds. “All that’s needed is the patience to wait while the duck slowly cooks to crisp, melting perfection.”
Here’s the full recipe, below. For more recipes as easy as this, order a copy Simple & Classic. It’s the essential step-by-step recipe book for home cooks – the 'best of the best' from Jane’s three Phaidon best selling cookery books.
2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
2 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 duck legs
1 large cucumber
2 bunches scallions (spring onions)
24 Chinese pancakes
1/2 cup (120 ml) hoisin sauce
Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C/Gas Mark 3. Mix the five-spice powder with the salt and pepper. Put the duck legs into a roasting pan. Rub the duck legs all over with the salty spice.
Roast the duck for 1 1/2 hours, or until the skin is dark golden and crisp and the meat is tender. The fat will have run out of the skin. A convection or fan-assisted oven will give a really crisp result, so if you have the option, use a convection oven, not forgetting to reduce the temperature by 25°F/20°C.
Meanwhile, cut the cucumber into thin sticks and trim, then finely shred the scallions (spring onions). Cutting the scallions into thin strips can be difficult, so slice into rounds if preferred.
When the duck is cooked, cover the pancakes with aluminum foil and put into the oven for 10 minutes to warm through (or follow the package instructions). Use 2 forks to pull the duck flesh and skin away from the bones. They should come away from the bones very easily. Keep the duck warm on a plate in the oven. Don’t cover it with foil, or the skin will lose its crispness.
Spoon the hoisin sauce into a serving dish. Serve the sauce, shredded duck, sliced cucumber, scallions, and pancakes separately and let everyone assemble their own. To assemble, spoon about 1 teaspoon of hoisin sauce onto a pancake, then spread it out with the back of the spoon. Arrange a couple of sticks of cucumber, a few shreds of scallion, and a little duck in a line across the middle of the pancake. To roll, tuck the bottom of the pancake up, then roll the sides over, leaving the top open.
Simple & Classic is a newly curated collection of the very best of Jane Hornby's recipes from What to Cook & How to Cook It, Fresh & Easy, and What to Bake & How to Bake It, each previously published by Phaidon. The beauty of Hornby's recipes is how easy they are to perfect – with detailed step-by-step shots and beautiful images of the finished dishes, this is destined to be the most useful cookbook on the shelf. Buy your copy here.