Recipe testing for Vanessa Kimbell: Duck noodles and canapes

Vanessa Kimbell

Vanessa Kimbell is a brave woman, she gave up her well-paid job to enter the mega-competitive world of food writing. Her cookery book Prepped! is aimed at time-short foodies who don’t want to compromise on what they’re eating just because they don’t have all day to cook it.

The recipes are all linked, with the basis of one meal providing an element of the next. Curious about the concept, I offered to test a double cook recipe for Vanessa.

I couldn’t get hold of duck breasts from my supermarket online’s service, but Vanessa assured me lamb steaks would work just as well.

So I got stuck in. I thought it was going to be quite a faff doing two recipes at once, but we ate the noodles straight away and I prepared the canapes later on.

I rarely make my own canapes because I just don’t have the time with two small boys running around, BUT I love the idea that you can turn the leftover meat into delicious amuse bouche with only a handful of extra ingredients. Just pop them in the freezer until you need them. Great concept Vanessa.

My Lamb version of Vanessa's recipe

Roast Duck Breast with Noodles & Chinese Duck Canapés

Makes 2 main dishes plus 24 canapés
Prep time 20 + 10 minutes
Cooking time for both 25 minutes + 12 minutes
Suitable for freezing? Yes, but only the canapés

4 duck breasts or four lamb steaks
Toasted sesame seed oil
3 plums, stones removed, sliced in 4 pieces
1/2 tsp Chinese five spice
Pinch of salt
4 tbsp plum brandy
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
2–3 nests egg noodles
Fresh mint
1 small chilli, finely chopped


1 Preheat the oven to 200°C/180’C Fan/gas mark 6.

2 Make 4 x 5cm cuts across each duck breast. This allows the fat to escape and gives you a nice, crispy duck skin. Brush a very small amount of the sesame seed oil into a pan that can be transferred to the oven, put on a medium heat and place each duck breast skin-side down. Add the plums. Add the Chinese five spice and a pinch of salt, sprinkling evenly over the duck. Allow the duck to sizzle away on the hob for a good 8–10 minutes. (For the lamb I browned it 2-3 minutes per side)

3 Once the duck breasts are golden and crispy, transfer to the oven for 20 minutes. (10 minutes for the lamb or it’ll get chewy) Remove the pan from the oven and return to the hob. Add the brandy and soy sauce to the pan, stir a little and put back in the oven for a further 5 minutes.

4 In the meantime, prepare the noodles according to the instructions on the packet.

5 Take the duck breasts from the oven. Leave 2 in the pan for the canapés. Take 2 breasts and slice them into .5cm strips. Use 4–5 tablespoons of the juices from the pan and toss with the noodles, coating them well. Serve immediately with the duck on top, and scatter with fresh mint and finely chopped chilies.

Chinese Duck Canapes

2–3 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely choppped
3 tbsp Plum Jam
4 sheets filo pastry
20g melted butter
35g feta cheese, crumbled
fresh mint to garnish


1 Once the remaining two duck breasts have cooled enough to handle, slice them into small 1cm pieces. Sauté the shallots and garlic in the original pan (there should be enough oil leftover) once they are lightly browned add the meat to the pan along with the plum jam. Stir well

2 Prepare the filo pastry by layering 4 pieces together, brushing a layer of melted butter between each sheet as you do so. Cut into 16 squares about 6cm across. Pop these into a mini muffin tray, fill with a tablespoon of the duck mixture and scatter bits of feta over them. At this point I cover them with cling film and put them away in the tray in either the fridge or the freezer.

3 When you’re ready to cook them, they need just 12 minutes in the oven on 175’C/155’C Fan/ Gas 3 Once cooked, allow them to cool for a few minutes before putting them onto a plate and scattering with fresh mint leaves.


To check the duck meat is cooked, a meat thermometer should read over 72˚C. But as long as they’ve had 20 minutes at the right temperature they should be fine.

If you don’t like duck or can’t find any, then good lamb steaks are a really great substitute

I didn’t have any plum brandy, so I used some blueberry infused balsamic vinegar instead which worked a treat.

The noodles were delicious – the sauce is rich and intense, the meat very satisfying and the noodles certainly calm the hunger pangs.

The canapes looked fab, were simple to put together and tasted really heavenly. The plum jam does dominate a bit, but the red meat and feta cheese came through nicely. I think a plate of these would be pretty knock-out at a drinks party.

Vanessa’s book Prepped! hits the shelves in May 2011.


About Katie Bryson

Katie Bryson is a freelance food writer and blogger. She left a career in online news at the BBC to immerse herself in the culinary world, taking in courses at Leiths School of Food and Wine and an internship at Waitrose along the way. Her family food blog is bursting with recipes and tips for feeding hungry families that’ll help inspire all those frazzled parents out there wondering what on earth to cook for tea!
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6 Responses to Recipe testing for Vanessa Kimbell: Duck noodles and canapes

  1. Jo Fazel says:

    Oh these look mega yum! I do love a bit of duck so might be trying out the noodle recipe – not sure with young kids I ever have the opportunity to host any parties which would call for canapes (but they would make a good midnight feast snack for me!)

  2. Hi Jo – I think you should have a party with cocktails and canapes.. even if it’s a private one!!.. if you have children you deserve a party !

    – Katie – this is such a fabulous blog post ! Love the photos and write up – thank you !!!


  3. It does look and sound good.

    Make sure that you make Vanessa’s elderflower trout. It is amazing!

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