Savse Smoothies: Duck, Beetroot, and Crispy Potatoes, with Super Blue Sauce

This is obviously not a health food blog. This is a celebratory blog – an equal opportunities blog, where a glorious sponge cake decorated with fudgy frosting is given the same happy reception as a bright salad studded with seeds and fresh fruit. I have no personal need to focus on ‘free from’ food, I am far from a vegetarian, and I believe in eating and enjoying a huge range of things. Really, I just want things that taste good.


That’s why I was delighted when Savse got in touch and asked me if I’d like to participate in a collaboration with them, using their smoothies to devise new recipes. One of the rather lovely things about this sort of task is that you get sent products to experiment with and, lucky old me, these smoothies are completely delicious. They are cold-pressed and natural, with no added sugar, so great to have as a little energy booster and a helping hand towards your five-a-day.

I’ve started with a savoury recipe, which is a little more of a challenge with a fruit based smoothie, but one which I had lots of fun experimenting with. This duck dish is great because it looks fancy if you want to impress someone, but is actually full of really simple processes. The amount served here is enough for a light main course – think elegant lunch or a dinner after which you would like to eat a generous pudding – but could easily be bulked up if you were hungry by cutting the potatoes into chunky wedges instead of cute little cubes.


The thing that really makes the dish is the sauce. Everything else is tasty, but commonly found: pink duck breast with a meltingly crispy skin; golden little mouthfuls of salty potato; earthy-rich beetroot; delicate, fresh lamb’s lettuce. The sauce, though, is stuffed with intriguing flavours. Its base is the Savse Super Blue Smoothie, which is packed full of (deep breath) blueberry, kale, beetroot, spinach, blackcurrant, apple, strawberry, and orange. With all that going on, no wonder it makes such a rich and complex sauce. I took my inspiration for the recipe from the fact that lots of the ingredients in the smoothie are great tried-and-tested partners for duck – blueberry, beetroot, spinach, orange – and went from there. Happily, after my recipe-testing session, the plates were practically licked clean.


Notes: The sauce is the key element of this dish, and it’s the thing you need to pay most attention to. Taste it as you are going along – I am giving rough guidelines in terms of ingredients here. Add more or less of anything to your own personal preference.

If you would prefer to make big chips rather than little potato cubes, you should par-boil them in salted boiling water for five minutes before oven-cooking them, otherwise they might not cook through in the time it takes to prepare the rest of the dish.

The quantities given here will serve two people.


2 duck breasts
2 pieces of pre-cooked vac-packed beetroot (or roast your own from raw if you’d rather)
1 large or 2 smaller potatoes
2 large handfuls of lamb’s lettuce (or another salad leaf of your choosing)
salt and pepper
olive oil

for the sauce

1 shallot
2 garlic cloves
1 250ml bottle Savse Super Blue Smoothie
1 small glass red wine (or to taste)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper


  1. Heat your oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 6. Peel your potato, and dice it into little cubes. Slice your pre-cooked beetroot into rounds. Place the beetroot on one side of a roasting tray, the potato on the other, and drizzle both with oil. Season generously. Place in the oven to roast for around 20 minutes, or until the beetroot is darkened and crisped at the edges and the potatoes are golden and cooked through.
  2. Season your duck breast and place it skin side down in a cold, non-stick frying pan. Do not add oil. Put the pan on a medium heat and let the fat under the skin of the duck slowly render down for about 10 minutes – the pan will fill with the natural duck fat and the skin will become golden and crisp. Check it every now and then to see it’s not burning. While this is happening, finely dice your shallot and crush your garlic. When you’re happy with your duck skin, turn the duck breast over and quickly brown it on the flesh side for 1 minute, and then put it on a roasting tray, skin up, in the oven with your potatoes and beetroot for 10 minutes. (Note: this should give you lovely pink duck, but obviously depends slightly on your oven and the thickness of your meat). When the duck is done, take it out of the oven and let it rest for at least 5, preferably 10, minutes, while you finish off the dish.
  3. Wipe out the frying pan you used for the duck, heat a splash of oil on a medium heat, and soften your shallot. After 3-5 minutes, add your crushed garlic. Cook for 1 minute, then add your bottle of smoothie. Turn up the heat and reduce the liquid down. Add the wine, vinegar, and plenty of seasoning, as well as any juices from the resting duck. Keep tasting it and adjusting according to your preference. You’re looking for a thick, dark, glossy sauce.
  4. Slice your rested duck and serve with crispy potatoes, roast beetroot, salad leaves, and a drizzle of sauce. Finish off by pouring the rest of the sauce over your duck.



Leiths: Advanced Term, Week 6

I tend to write this blog assuming that I’m talking to myself, only to be surprised every now and then to hear from people who read it who I wouldn’t necessarily expect to do so. People who aren’t my family or closest friends – I assume they occasionally have a glance out of polite obligation – but passing acquaintances or friends of friends, people who I wouldn’t expect to be following along with my rambling story. So, strange as it feels to me to announce this as though I’m speaking to readers, I’m letting you know that you’re not getting a proper blog this week.

On Monday we had wine revision and an unexciting prep cooking session, on Tuesday we were out of school for a wine trip, on Wednesday we had all day cooking, on Thursday we had the day off for wine revision, and on Friday we had our wine exam. So, cooking wise, all I have to tell you about is Wednesday! I could describe the seven hours of travelling it took me to get to and from Sussex on Tuesday or the terror of the WSET Level 2 paper on Friday but, let’s face it, if you’re here at all you’re probably here for the food.


On Wednesday we only had two dishes to serve, and one of them we’d prepared on Monday. This sounds like an easy day, but oddly, it wasn’t. We started with a terrine made with pork, liver, and pistachio, served with sourdough and microherbs. Surprisingly easy and delicious, and perfect for making ahead and slicing and serving to guests. The second dish was a creative duck plate. Essentially, they gave us a duck and told us to do whatever we wanted with it and use as much of the bird as possible. I went for: pan fried duck breast; beetroot ravioli filled with duck confit, thyme and garlic; pickled baby beetroot and shallot rings; celeriac purée; baby carrots, peas, and micro herbs; and a duck and port jus. If you think that sounds complicated, you should have seen some of the dishes that other people came up with. They were seriously beautiful and professional and I am in awe of (and slightly jealous of) so many of my classmates. As we were all making complex dishes with multiple components to be brought together for service, it was a bit of a manic day and resulted in the most terrifying and comic washing up pile I have ever seen.

So, our big portfolio hand in deadline has passed, our WSET Level 2 exam is over (thank god, on both counts), and next week is Week 7. I can’t quite believe it, but we’re very nearly there.

And I’ll try to give you a proper blog post next week.


Leiths: Intermediate Term, Week 5

Halfway, somehow. Week 5 of the Intermediate Term marks the halfway point of the course. We’ve done this much, and now we’ll do it all again.

I really feel like I should know what I’m doing by now.

Week 5 was brought in by the charming Storm Imogen, which caused chaos across the rail network and made me seriously grumpy about trudging towards my car through a vicious downpour in the pitch black on Monday morning. It didn’t seem like a particularly auspicious start to a day of all day cooking, but I was cheered by the thought of Chelsea buns and steak, as any reasonable person would be.

We’re required to cook our steaks medium-rare at school, and I am terrible at it. This is because I like my steaks blue, and it goes against every instinct I have to take them further, thus I always end up pulling them out of the pan too early by mistake. My first triumph of Monday, then, was accurately cooking my steak to medium-rare for the first time. Then I made my béarnaise too thin. Can’t win them all.


The day fell apart a bit after the steak, I must admit. My problems started when another student accidentally took my pastry from the fridge and used it, meaning I had to make another batch, leaving me way behind and playing catch-up for the rest of the session. Then we had a fire drill just as everyone was putting their pastry cases in the oven. Like anywhere else, when the fire alarm goes at Leiths you have to stop what you’re doing and leave the building, even if you’ve just put your delicate pastry cases on to bake. The whole school arrayed on the street – half of us in full whites – was quite a sight for the passers-by. My arms are crossed and my smile is forced because it was absolutely freezing outside.


I did feel like I was rather limping to the finish line, but I managed to serve my tarts and Chelsea buns in the end. My pastry was over-baked and my Chelsea buns were over-glazed (according to Leiths – I love them ‘over-glazed’ and would ideally add even more glaze than shown in the photo below), but I got everything up for service, which felt like a small victory in and of itself. I am in no way artistic, and arranging delicate fruit prettily on patisserie is not my main strength, as you can see. Some of my fellow students produced absolutely beautiful tarts though, and it was lovely to have a nosey around the kitchen and see what everyone else had come up with.


I was a bundle of tiredness by the time I headed home on Monday – being on your feet and cooking from 9am-5pm will do that to you – but unfortunately Storm Imogen was still out to play, and my train home to Oxford got cancelled due to debris on the line. I ended up having to take a couple of different trains on different lines to wend my way through deepest, darkest, windy-est Oxfordshire on the little local stopping services, and became very grateful for the Chelsea buns in my backpack.

I am pretty used to commuting at this stage and am largely blind to the foibles of my fellow travellers, but on Tuesday morning the man sitting opposite me on the train took out a toothbrush and toothpaste and started brushing his teeth. Just sitting in his seat. Using a coffee cup as a makeshift sink. My look of absolute incredulity went unnoticed and he proceeded to take off his shoes and put on huge, fluffy socks.


Nothing else as odd as that happened during the rest of the day. We started off with another wine lecture, this time on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and then moved on to ‘the liver day’, which seemed a shame because to everyone else it was Pancake Day and I think it could have been an excellent excuse to get some crêpe practice done. Instead we made chicken liver pâté and liver with bacon, onions, and cabbage. As mentioned in previous posts, I am all about the offal, so I was fine with this in principle. Unfortunately. I completely messed it up. The chicken liver pâté was for later in the week, but in the dish pictured above apparently my liver, bacon, and cabbage were all undercooked. At least I was wrong in consistent way.

We got a break from the kitchens on Wednesday when Peter and Graham came back for our second Meat Appreciation session. Once again, it was all about the offal. Well, at least mostly about the offal – it seems to be one of the themes from this term. A pig’s head made a brief appearance, and another very large chunk of cow was dismantled. I love watching all this and find it fascinating, so it was a happy day. I also purchased some feather blade steak and some duck legs, and journeyed home with a backpack full of meat, something which seems to be happening with increasing regularity.


We knew Thursday morning’s dem would be good when we walked into the dem room and were embraced by the warm smell of lots and lots of pastry. Hannah and Jane were treating us to flaky and hot water crust pastry in many guises. I must admit, I’m a bit nervous about making flaky and puff pastry for myself when the time comes, but they made it look simple and everything we tasted – including palmiers, a red onion and goats’ cheese tart, a steak and Guinness pie, pork pies, and duck pies, and probably some more stuff that’s been lost in the buttery haze of memories – was incredible. The making of flaky pastry requires you to be patient and precise, neither of which skills comes naturally to me, but the results are undeniably impressive, and I must admit that I kind of want to become the sort of terrible person who can say they make their own puff pastry in a vaguely smug way.


The afternoon cooking session was a bit of an odd one because, aside from making a quick soda bread, we were all doing different things to practice various skills and techniques we needed to work on. It was a lovely, relaxed few hours in the kitchen, free from the pressure of service times and harsh marking. I was turning vegetables – can you tell I’ve been having some issues with that? – and cooking some guinea fowl with a pan sauce. My sauce was too thin, but finally, finally, I did something right with meat cooking and my guinea fowl was pronounced perfect.


I spent Friday morning’s train ride becoming progressively more annoyed as two American tourists sitting in front of me in the quiet carriage talked loudly and took selfies for the entire hour-long journey. I wish I had the nerve to confront people who are behaving unreasonably on public transport but I never quite muster up the courage. Seriously though: it’s an eight-carriage train with ONE quiet carriage covered in bright pink signs denoting its status, and there must be some special kind of retribution for people that pick that carriage to have loud conversations about sports.

Sorry, I’m done.

Friday morning’s dem was on gateaux. Cake on a Friday morning: excellent timetabling decision. We’ll be making our own gateaux in class – more on that next week, I imagine – so it seemed a good idea to pay attention while Ansobe showed us how to make the perfect Genoise sponge, how to divide it into layers with cotton, how to make meringue-based buttercream, and other such crucial life skills. Obviously the best bit was at the end when we got to eat everything.

The afternoon was less gentle and less Friday-ish. We had to do a short order prawn dish – the less said the better, really, as it appears I am awful at short order – and a duck with cherry almond sauce dish with accompaniments of our choice. I went for potato and celeriac dauphinoise and kale, and as you can see, my presentation seriously let me down again. I did eat it all, though, and even if it looked a mess it did taste pretty great. Mind you, I was so hungry that I definitely wasn’t being picky. This session was also where I got my most ridiculous injury yet. In the rush to service, a fellow student and I half-collided, and her chef’s knife fell off her chopping board and onto my leg. The tip of the knife cut me through my trousers and my very thick kitchen socks: I barely acknowledged it at the time, bar a brief yelp of pain and surprise, but after the rush of service I discovered blood running down my leg. I was quite lucky it was not worse and also quite lucky that I am always freezing cold so wear huge hiking socks all the time.


And here we are, waving a goodbye to Week 5 which is, if not quite fond, tinged with weary affection. In lieu of half term we are being treated to a glorious four day weekend, so I’m off to, er, do some more school work. Culinary school: loads of fun; definitely not glamorous.