Lime leaf-wrapped duck fritters with beetroot pesto

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Preparation info

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Appears in

Fusion: A Culinary Journey


By Peter Gordon

Published 2010

  • About

I love this mixture of rich duck and aromatic lime leaf - they really seem to be made for each other. I grow my own kaffir limes - even though I live on the top floor of an Edwardian block in inner London. We were bought the tree years ago by Irish friends as appreciation for a dinner we’d cooked, and it’s thrived ever since, even producing actual limes. Friends can’t quite believe it. My sister Tracey has a large kaffir lime tree growing in her garden - but then she lives in Northern New South Wales in Australia so you might expect that. A lime leaf is actually two leaves joined together - a larger one that is attached to the branch, and a smaller one at the other end. If you’re unable to find fresh lime leaves, then you can use frozen ones for this. Dried ones just don’t seem to work. Lemon leaves also work a treat - it’s the oil in the leaf that adds flavour to the fritter. If you simply can’t get lime leaves, then you’re going to have to add some grated lime zest to the mixture and simply grill or fry them like little burgers. Beetroot pesto is an old favourite - I created it in 1995 and it finds its way onto all sorts of dishes, but here its added richness, with gorgeous colour, seems a fitting garnish to the fritters. This will make a lot of pesto - so try serving it with grilled pork or lamb chops, or tossed through pasta with duck livers and spinach. If you want to save time, use a pre-made Thai curry 7 paste in the mixture rather than adding chilli, garlic and ginger.


  • 1 medium-sized beetroot
  • 13 lime leaves (doubles as described on left)
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped (more or less, to taste)
  • ½ thumb of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 400 g duck breast meat (avoid excessive fat), sliced
  • 15 ml (1 Tbsp) Thai fish sauce
  • 30 g pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 30 g Parmesan, grated
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) toasted sesame oil
  • 30 ml (2 Tbsp) olive oil
  • a very small handful of Thai (or regular) basil leaves
  • a very small amount of coriander leaves
  • vegetable oil for frying the fritters


Preheat oven to 180°C. Wrap the beetroot in foil and bake until you can poke a thin knife or skewer through it easily - around 50 minutes. Take from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes, then unwrap and peel it by rubbing the skin off with your fingers, or a small knife. It pays to wear gloves as it will stain your fingers badly. Cut into chunks and leave to cool.

While the beetroot’s cooking, make the fritter mix. Finely shred one of the lime leaves, using scissors if that’s easier. Place in a small food processor along with the chilli, ginger and four of the garlic cloves and blitz to a rough paste. Add the duck meat, fish sauce and ½ teaspoon salt then blitz again to a coarse ‘mince’. Divide the mince into 12 even-sized balls, and holding a twin-set of lime leaf in one hand, sit a duck pattie on top of the larger leaf. Fold the smaller leaf over and gently press it into the meat. Place on a tray lined with plastic wrap and prepare the remaining patties. Cover and place in the fridge for at least an hour to firm up.

Place the cooled beetroot in a small food processor along with the remaining clove of garlic, the pine nuts, Parmesan, sesame and olive oils and the Thai basil and coriander leaves. Blitz to a paste, then season with salt and pepper.

Heat 1.5 cm of vegetable oil to 180°C in a deep-sided frying-pan (to avoid it splattering too much). Carefully lower in the fritters, not overcrowding the pan, and cook for one minute. Turn them over and cook for another 30-45 seconds. Once cooked take them from the cooking oil and place on kitchen paper to drain.

To Serve

Dollop a little pesto onto each fritter and eat while hot. Give the leaf a wee chew too - it’s quite delicious, if quite inedible.