Making the most of Fife’s bounty, Gordon Dall, from The Party Duck grazing box and catering service, talks to Rebecca Shearer about how it all started with stir fries and cheese, and the ingredient you won’t find anywhere near his plate…
Having grown up in Kirkliston, just outside Edinburgh, Gordon Dall worked in the financial sector for 15 years before deciding to give it up and pursue his passion in cooking.
Despite not pursuing it as a career immediately, Gordon enjoyed cooking and baking from an early age, with some of his earliest food memories involving his family’s Saturday night stir-fries.
He said: “My introduction to cooking was spending hours, wooden spoon in hand, baking with my mother in our home kitchen. On a weekend, all the children from the street would knock on the door to join our bake fest.
“Sponge cakes, lemon cakes and cupcakes were devoured whilst still warm from the oven – thinking about it now gives me a warm glow inside.
“My favourite memory would be the infamous Saturday night stir-fry. Memories lead me to the image of my late father, who was a keen cook. It was the closest meal to a takeaway that we were allowed.
“I would be served a hot, steaming bowl of steak and oriental veg with rice. I would always then sneak into the kitchen to grab the cheese grater and a block of cheddar. My father never actually said anything, but a look can say a thousand words.”
A dream in 2018
When Gordon’s love for cooking led to him building a reputation as a brilliant catering chef, he began to make plans to create his own business, The Party Duck.
Gordon continued: “The Party Duck started as an idea and a dream in 2018. I was always creating and serving food whenever I could find the time.
“I would start with a standard recipe then tweak it to add a bit of style and flair. It became evident that my skill was exceeding expectations when the parents would also stay and eat at our kids’ parties and then ask for me to cater for their parties too. Kids’ parties turned into adult gatherings. Small intimate parties became larger.
“As numbers grew, so did my learning, experience and skill.
“My vision for The Party Duck has always been to be truly bespoke and innovative. Working and growing from an idea with clients means that the seemingly impossible can become possible – such as catering in the middle of a forest for a large charity client, which was so much fun.”
Like so many others during lockdown, Gordon’s Dunfermline-based business adapted and now provides grazing boxes locally.
“Lockdown had a huge impact as we could no longer cater for our larger groups and our business instantly stopped,” he added.
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“During the second lockdown, we have focused on weekly fresh meal delivery service and kids’ treat boxes.
“We had to change our approach to what sort of food people would be looking to as an alternative to your traditional takeaway meal by offering a fresh, healthier option. We have also built an online shop through our website to allow customers to order direct in their own time, which has proved popular.”
On the menu
But how would Gordon describe The Party Duck’s menu?
He says: “We love world food and offering a variety of options. Set menus generally come about for holidays and special dates throughout the year. Often a client will create their own set menu for a wedding or large event.
“It has also been noted that our food is vibrant, super tasty and fresh, which is what we love to offer. From canapes to wholesome, filling meals – we always love to showcase speciality ingredients.”
Surrounded by Fife’s enviable larder and with so many natural ingredients on his doorstep, Gordon has been utilising the best of the kingdom’s fare.
He said: “We try to source our produce as locally as possible. Living in Fife, we are spoiled for fantastic farmland and brilliant farmers.
“Beef is one of my favourite ingredients. It sits brilliantly alongside each season’s produce and can be cooked to perfection either naked or with a dressing or a prominent spice.”
Though locally sourced beef may be at the top of Gordon’s list, there’s another ingredient that isn’t.
He says: “I would say mushrooms are my least favourite. I’d like to love them, as the final dishes look and taste great, however the texture and fragrance aren’t for me.”
Now with spring well and truly sprung, Gordon revealed the seasonal ingredients he’ll be cooking with these next few weeks.
“We will be using asparagus, fresh peas, purple sprouting broccoli, beetroot and some lovely lamb,” he said.
“We will be combining these for our new barbecue boxes and making gorgeous sides such as our quinoa, beetroot hummus, kale and halloumi board, which as a great summer side.”
The Party Duck’s watermelon curry
- 1 small, seedless watermelon rind removed and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- ¼ tsp ground turmeric
- ¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp fresh coriander, coarsely chopped
- Steamed basmati rice, for serving
- Purée a third of the watermelon cubes in a blender or food processor until smooth; set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the cumin seeds and coriander seeds and cook until toasted and fragrant, for about 30 seconds.
- Add the garlic and sauté until it just starts to brown, about 30 seconds.
- Add the puréed watermelon, coriander, turmeric, cayenne and salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low, simmer, and let the liquid reduce slightly and thicken, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add the remaining watermelon cubes to the pan. Toss them gently to coat so that they’re evenly coated with sauce.
- Cover the pan and simmer until the watermelon is heated through, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Taste and season with more cayenne and/or salt as needed.
- Sprinkle with the coriander and serve over rice.