I had a Gressingham duck breast in my freezer, left over from when I made the Ottoman duck dish that I’d had in Istanbul last month; supermarkets seem to invariably sell duck portions in packets of two. But it seemed a quick and simple thing to cook this evening so it came out of the freezer early in the day, in time to properly defrost. I briefly considered making a traditional orange sauce to go with it – a la orange – but remembered I’d recently made the chicken and orange dish so discounted that. Anyway, I had blueberries and surely one could made a delicious sauce with those to go with duck. Duck marries so well with fruit. I consulted the wonderful The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit, which I’m always turning to for ideas of matching flavours. It’s an invaluable book (a present from my daughter a couple of birthdays ago) and much used. Niki suggested that coriander seeds and cinnamon went well with blueberries and these seemed an ideal way to spice up my duck dish.
First of all I prepared the duck by slicing with a sharp knife through the skin and then generally seasoning with salt and pepper and leaving it for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, I heated the oven to 200C/180 Fan. Then I put a small amount of olive oil in a pan and when it was hot, put the duck breast in skin side down and cooked on a fairly high heat until the skin was browning. I removed it to a small ovenproof dish, turning it so it was skin-side up. I put it in the oven for 12 minutes and once cooked removed it and left to rest for a short while.
Meanwhile, I made the sauce. In the same pan I browned the duck, in the leftover juices, I added 1 small red onion, finely sliced. To this I added about 1/3 teaspoon coriander seeds crushed in pestle and mortar and 1/3 teaspoon cinnamon powder.
I stirred and cooked for just a couple of minutes then added 50ml of red wine. Once that had bubbled up I added a handful of blueberries and stirred. I let the sauce reduce a little for a couple more minutes then added about 50ml chicken stock. I seasoned with salt and pepper and added 1 teaspoon maple syrup and then left the sauce to slowly and gently bubble away for a few minutes, till nicely reduced and the blueberries starting to break up a little. Check seasoning.
Now slice the duck breast on a slant and lay on a warm plate. I like my duck breast still nicely pink in the middle but cook for an extra 3-5 minutes if you prefer it more well done.
Carefully spoon the blueberry sauce over – a little directly over and some to the side. I served mine with some steamed purple sprouting broccoli over which I drizzled some olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. I had a few crisp roasted new potatoes on the side.
It was a delicious meal. The duck was perfectly cooked for me and beautifully tender. The sauce had a subtle spicy edge that enhanced but didn’t overpower the blueberries. The blueberries shone through: a sweetness tinged with a slightly sour note; the red wine and stock reduction bringing a brilliant depth to the sauce. Definitely a success and more satisfying for having put it together according to my fancy and not following a recipe. However, if you follow my recipe I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!