This Roast Duck with Black Za'atar was quite the revelation. I'm a BIG fan of duck and I love nothing more than a beautifully pan fried duck breast or a spicy Indian Duck Vindaloo Curry or better still a big old bowl of duck fat roast potatoes - but most of all I adore a whole roast duck (sometimes to myself!).
The aromas of a roasting duck are to be cherished! This dish takes inspiration from the Middle East - Lebanon to be precise. Za'atar is one of my favourite things to include in Middle Eastern recipes as it's pre made and doesn't need any cooking. When it's sprinkled over food, like my awesome and simple Za'atar Bread with Beef and Shangleesh or a delicious Harissa Hummus wtih Za'atar it elevates the authentic Middle Eastern flavours.
What's in Za'atar?
Za'atar ingredients change slightly depending on who you talk to or which brand you buy pre-made. Generally speaking, za'atar includes Sesame Seeds, dried thyme, sumac, marjoram, oregano and salt.
My recipe for black za'atar, a variation, includes fresh herbs, and black sesame seeds. This is purely an aesthetic approach - you can 100% use a regular za'atar mix or replace black sesame with white sesame. A lot of people ask me, how long does Za'atar last? If you keep it in an airtight container, you can keep it up to 6 months and it'll taste delicious! You can keep it longer, but like most spices, it'll start to lose its kick the older it gets.
Buying Middle Eastern spices
If you're looking to buy Middle Eastern spices, I suggest buying a little of each at a time, buying less, more often ensures they'll always be fresh.
The mellow, earthy spice of za'atar works so well with the slight gamey quality of duck. The duck cooking time is low and slow, leaving it soft, and juicy. The sharp sweetness of the lemon is a further level of flavour, which sends this dish into a league of its own! This duck recipe is a must!
How to make my Roast Duck with Black Za'atar
For the Za'atar
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp black sesame seeds
- 1/2 tbsp sumac
- 2 tbsp cumin seeds
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 3 lb Duck (whole)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 lemons (cut into large wedges)
- Preheat oven to 300ºF/150ºC In a dry frying pan, lightly toast the sesame and cumin seeds. Leave to cool slightly then grind into a semi fine powder in a spice grinder or pestle & mortar. Stir in the sumac, cinnamon, thyme, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Wash and pat dry the duck with paper towels inside and out. Place the duck into a roasting tin. Drizzle over the oil and rub into the bird then sprinkle over all the za'atar to cover. Arrange two of the lemons around and underneath the duck.
- Cover the roasting tin with foil and roast for 3 ½ hours - baste the duck with the cooking juices every 30 minutes or so. Remove the foil and turn up the heat to 180ºC to crispen up the skin.
- Remove from the oven and rest for 5-10 minutes before gently removing as much meat as you can with two forks to a waiting serving platter. Serve with the remaining lemon wedges to squeeze over the duck, alongside salad, pilaf or vegetables.
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