Sweet duck legs with plum & star anise

Posted by on Nov 27, 2013 in recipes | 18 comments

Rich was away for the most part of last week in Taiwan and got back in on Saturday afternoon with a hangover waiting in the wings to kick in from the night before. He went off for a massage to help with the recovery and to set him up for some quality time in the evening with me!

I have to admit that when I’m on my own I tend to resort to cheese & tomato tortillas dry fried in a pan to save on washing up. Sloppy I know but it’s nice to have a break from cooking diligently every night. Knowing that Saturday night was going to be our last quiet one before Rich starts having work commitments and I leave for Melbourne , I booked a restaurant that had been on my list for a while and which had fantastic write-ups everywhere. I warned Rich it was going to be at the top of the expensive range – which was a good thing in retrospect because the wines started around the $90 mark. Eeeeeekkk.


Dinner started off ok but it never really went anywhere other than ok. The large open kitchen with counter seating definitely had wow factor and we asked to be seated there rather than at the table we were offered initially. I didn’t bother taking any photos until half way through our main course. The chef had finished plating up the seared tuna for a large party and then just as Rich was tucking into his suckling pig the chef brought out two suckling pig carcasses and proceeded to break them down in full view of everyone at the counter.

I think by now you know we are pretty open minded about where our food comes from and the various levels of hygiene in Shanghai but this startled us I have to admit.

The party to my left were oohing and aaahing and saying how ‘awesome’ it was. The couple next to us got up to get a closer view. I just sat there and thought about the chef using his fingers to plate up the tuna and then having raw piglet next to plated food….maybe I’m being too fussy.

Admittedly the chef did turn around and ask us if it was OK just as he was taking off the head of the second piglet. By then the damage had been done and all I could think of was how my vegetarian friend who recommended the restaurant would have felt if she was sitting at the counter. The whole episode added to the general sense of feeling underwhelmed so we didn’t bother with a dessert preferring to come home for some chocolate instead!

Fast forward to Sunday night when I called Richard into the kitchen to witness the magic I was conjuring up with the duck legs from the Friday mystery box.

sweet duck legs with plum & star anise jamjnr.com

Thank you to everyone for your suggestions – which I promptly ignored saved for another day because when I walked into the co-op across the road on Saturday morning I saw a box of plums and I remembered a Jamie Oliver recipe from ages ago that I wanted to give a try.

The fact that I went in for tomatoes and came out with plums is totally besides the point. So is that I had no idea how many plums I needed so bought a kilo. And that kilo of plums cost more than the duck. And that I had to go back to the Avocado Lady for another two legs……eeuugghh what an odyssey I really do need a shopping list when I leave the house.

sweet duck legs with plum & star anise jamjnr.com

sweet duck legs with plum & star anise jamjnr.com What can I tell you? Richard came into the kitchen and saw the four burnished duck legs, tasted the plum sauce and watched me plating everything up and all he could say was ‘why am I only getting one leg if there’s four in the pan?’.

Ah well. That will be because I need to take photos for the blog tomorrow.

Obviously. I can’t believe you don’t know that by now.

And anyway you can have it again for your dinner tomorrow night. Let’s just call that payback for coming home with a hangover.

When I asked him how it was he said ‘F*%$ing fantastic. A thousand times better than last night’s dinner and a darn sight cheaper’. He literally smacked his lips together.

Monday night he called on the way home and all he said was ‘get that duck ready I’ll be home in 10 minutes’.

It really is a winner – just don’t break up the star anise and cinnamon like I did for some reason cos it’s a bugger to pick out of the jammy sauce. Jamie’s recipe asks for 16 plums which is a little vague.  The plums in the shops here are massive and a kilo was probably a little too much. If plums are expensive where you are you can get away with 750-800g I think. I added mandarin peel and ginger to the marinade and I’d encourage you to do the same – it adds to the fragrance and the finished sauce is bloody fantastic.

So what do you think – were we being overly sensitive in the restaurant or would you have been put off too?

In any case, we certainly appreciated our Sunday night dinner all the more!

5.0 from 4 reviews

Sweet duck legs cooked with plums & star anise
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
With a little bit of prep the day before you can have a lip smacking plummy duck braise on the table with very little effort on the day.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Asian
Serves: 4
  • 4 duck legs
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tsp five spice
  • 1 handful star anise
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • peel of 1 mandarin or ½ orange (use a potato peeler for large pieces)
  • 4cm piece of ginger, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 fresh red chillies, deseeded and sliced
  • 1kg plums, halved and destoned
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp water
  1. Place the duck legs in a sandwich bag with the soy sauce, five spice, star anise, cinnamon stick, mandarin peel, ginger slices and olive oil and leave them to marinade for at least two hours or preferably overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170C.
  3. Find a tray or casserole dish big enough to snugly fit the duck legs. Place the chillies, plums, sugar and water in the bottom of the tray and pour the marinade from the bag over the top. Mix together and place the duck legs on top.
  4. Do not cover. Place the tray in the oven for 2 to 2½ hours until the meat falls away from the bone.
  5. Leave the meat to rest on a covered plate and drain off the juice from the tray. Skim off the fat and return to the tray.
  6. At this point you can mash up the plums to make a jammy sauce. Reserve a few of the nicer looking pieces for presentation purposes if that matters to you because the sauce will be an unattractive plummy brown colour by now – which is a bit of a shame because it is totally delicious.
  7. Serve with boiled rice and Chinese greens.

sweet duck legs with plum & star anise jamjnr.com





  1. I’ve made Jamie’s plum sauce several times and it is delicious. Your duck legs look wonderful with all that burnished colour. Not sure, even though I’m really not squeamish if I could have watched the breaking down of the pig whilst eating my meal. GG

    • We won’t be returning that’s for sure!

  2. I don’t think you were being overly sensitive, i’d be put off too! I have to say though, that duck looks AH-MAY-ZING! WoW what gorgeous flavours!

    • It was a pretty decent meal to throw together I have to admit :)

  3. Absolutely love your recipe ~ the kind of cooking which these days comes so naturally! And am hugely jealous of the obvious quality of the duck ‘marylands’ I would call them!! The US food bloggers do not seem to know that term!! Shall definitely try – with any poultry I can access :) ! Horses for courses – am not ‘fussy’ in the slightest, but the raw meat ‘breakup’ scenario would have made me a bit mad also!!!! And think you are going to have the best Yule ever!!!!!!!!!

    • Thanks Eha. Yes the recipe is definitely big on impact and low on effort which is just the way I like cooking these days:)

  4. I’m so thrilled that you shared this gorgeous duck recipe! We have so many ducks here on our farm and soon many of them will find their way into our freezer and I have yet to find a duck recipe I actually like! :-) I will definitely give this one a try. :-)
    Krista recently posted…SometimesMy Profile

    • You are welcome Krista :) I can’t imagine anyone not liking it – try with apples if you can’t get plums they would work too.

  5. I would have found it off-putting as well. I’d have yelled, ‘BABE!!! NOOOO!!!’ heh

    Now those duck legs are the prettiest things I’ve seen all day. I’d probably say f’n fantastic too!
    Maureen | Orgasmic Chef recently posted…Little Caramel Tarts with Chocolate Ganache and Macadamia NutsMy Profile

    • They were a bit special Maureen!

  6. I can’t believe there’s restaurant that charges $90.00 for wine but they seat you in front of the butchering process with all hands on deck. I would have retreated swiftly too. I know I’ve cooked that Jamie Oliver duck recipe. It’s fantastic and full of Asian flavours. But I won’t make it again for another few months – plums haven’t hit the shelves just yet and so they would be more expensive than the duck – just as they were for you! xx
    Hotly Spiced recently posted…Mum’s Cherry Chutney – Perfect with Turkey or HamMy Profile

    • Hmmmm yes. The plums were twice the price of the duck legs. Worth it though….

  7. Yuummmm. I know the dish that Lorraine is talking about too – I’ve had it twice and it’s amazing, so I imagine your duck was similarly to die for! And I think breaking down raw suckling pig next to plated dishes would have made me similarly squeamish – things tend to fly when you hit them with a cleaver… I also hate it when you spend big in a restaurant only to leave feeling like you would have had a better meal at home. Your duck totally made up for it though! Are you coming back to Melbs for Christmas?
    Jas@AbsolutelyJas recently posted…Matcha MayhemMy Profile

    • Yep back to Melbourne for Christmas. It’ll be our first one back in 5 years. Mum will be beside herself – she gets all 3 of us back with our significant others plus the only grandchild all together for the first time ever. There will be tears and tantrums galore no doubt!

  8. OMG looks soooo good. I’ve no idea where I’m going to find a duck (aside from the local park, but this is Japan you know, not China!). I’ve already cut and paste along with your gorgeous photo into my Evernote for food with full credit to Miss Nancy of course. Or is that Mrs Nancy now?

    I’m making my first kangaroo tail stew tonight. Any tips? Actually I’d better start now it’s probably tough as old boots.

    R xx

    • You can get duck at Nissin – I bought a whole one there the first Christmas we were in Tokyo. Where the hell did you find kangaroo tail?? I’d be cooking that overnight like osso bucco – if I really had to!!

  9. That looks lovely and quite similar to the Kylie Kwong dish that I suggested which is so heavenly, I can taste it now :)
    Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella recently posted…So You Want To Be a Food Judge? Secrets & Lessons From A Food JudgeMy Profile

    • I checked that one out Lorraine but it was too involved for this lazy cook!! Although I should have added a little fish sauce and lime to the plum sauce I think in hindsight. Next time :)

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