Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Duck Breast with Port and Blackberry Sauce - Sometimes I try to be cheffy!

I'm a 'home-cook' not a chef but every now and again I get the urge to be cheffy!  This is particularly true these days as we get to go out to a restaurant so rarely that if I want this type of dish then I have to cook it myself!

As I was strolling around the supermarket (child-free this time, bliss!), I saw that the Gressingham Duck Crowns were on special at £6.50.  I thought this was canny value so I decided to get one.  I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it yet, but later that day I got a text from my Mam asking if I'd go along to her house and pick the blackberries from her garden.  She was worried they would be ruined by the time she got back from France (I get the same text every year!).  As it turned out, half of them weren't ready for picking. I then had to battle through wasps and flies to salvage the ones that were! (I was too late for some.)

Vandals!  I've noticed on Twitter that 'Blackberry Picking' has suddenly become 'Foraging'!
I managed to 'forage' enough to get a bag for my mam's freezer and a handful for me, call it a finders fee! When I'd read the text I knew straight away that I was going to pinch some of the blackberries to go with my duck.  I'm aware that this combination isn't going to win me any awards for creativity or innovation.  It's a classic brasserie-style dish.  In fact, Mandy ordered duck with blackberry sauce when we went to Brasserie Blanc in Leeds a few years ago.  She really enjoyed it so I thought I'd give it a go myself; and as we hadn't managed to get to a restaurant in our 2 weeks in France this was a consolation prize!

Although this is a cheffy dish, it is a really simple one.  I decided I was going to serve it with a potato galette and some dwarf beans.  I make potato galette quite often as it makes a nice change from roasties.  I usually make a big portion in a frying pan and then stick it in the middle of the table for people to help themselves. This time I decided to make individual galettes (as i was being fancy!).

I remembered seeing George Calombaris from Masterchef Australia (yes, I watch Masterchef Australia!  I do draw the line at New Zealand though, and South Africa is truly awful!) cooking an individual galette on greaseproof paper.  This really appealed to me as it means there's no dishes to wash!  Coupled with the fact that I buy pre-cut greaseproof (shockingly lazy, I know!) this was doubly good!

With the accompaniments sorted, I just needed to decide exactly how I was going to make the sauce.  I decided to take the breasts off the crown so I could use the wings and carcass to flavour the sauce.  I then remembered watching Rick Stein's French Odyssey (yep, I watch a lot of cooking on tv!  Although, I've resisted the Bake Off until tonight when I will finally succumb!) and seeing a French woman finishing her red wine sauce with chocolate to accompany duck.  I really liked this idea and Rick raved about it, so I decided to give it a go.

Everything in this recipe can be done in advance if you're doing it for large numbers.  The duck breasts can be browned and ready to go into the oven, the beans part cooked and ready to go, the sauce made and ready to be finished with butter and chocolate.  The galettes could even be part cooked as well.  This is a dish which tastes great (always the main consideration in my cooking!), looks impressive and can easily be achieved. Everyone's a winner!

Duck Breast with Port and Blackberry Sauce


1 Duck Crown (Breasts removed, carcass and wings reserved)
3 Potatoes (Peeled and thinly sliced)
1 Onion (halved and peeled)
100ml Port
100ml Red Wine
Cinnamon and Star Anise (Very small pieces, see pic below)
25g Butter (melted, for brushing over galette) + 1 knob of butter to finish sauce.
Sprig of Fresh Rosemary
120g Dwarf Beans
2 handfuls of Blackberries
1/2 a square of Dark Chocolate (I used Lindt 70%)


1.  Remove duck breasts from crown, (if you're lucky enough to have a good butcher get them to do it for you!).  Score the skin, taking care not to cut through the flesh.  Separate the wings from the carcass.

2.  Brown the wings and carcass in a pan until well coloured, alternatively, you could roast them.  When they are browned add the onion and colour.

3.  Pour in equal quantities of Port and Red Wine and reduce by half, making sure you release all of the residue from the bottom of the pan.  (I remember the French woman lighting the alcohol with a match, I didn't bother this time.)

4.  Add the Star Anise and Cinnamon, cover and leave to barely simmer on the lowest heat to absorb the duck flavour.
You see what I mean by 'very small' - just enough to give a warmth without overpowering.

5.  Whilst the sauce is ticking over, boil your beans for 3-4 minutes until almost cooked.  Refresh in cold water and set aside.  Preheat oven to 200C.

6.  Make the galette, cover a baking tray with greaseproof paper.   Peel and thinly slice potatoes.  Don't wash the sliced potatoes as the starch helps the slices stick together as it cooks.  Arrange slices in overlapping circle making sure they overlap enough to stick together.
The potatoes at the bottom of the photo don't overlap enough but I got away with it!

7.  Finely chop the rosemary and add to the melted butter.  Brush over the galettes and season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven until golden and cooked through, around 20 minutes.

8.  Whilst the potatoes are in the oven, season the skin of the duck breast and place in a cold/dry frying pan.  Put onto a medium heat and fry until the fat has rendered, pour off the excess fat and turn up the heat until skin is crispy.

9.  Season the flesh side of the breast and place onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper (no dishes again!) and place in the oven (skin side up) and cook to your liking (I did them medium to suit my target market!  It took 8 minutes in the oven.)

10.  Remove the duck breasts and allow to rest.  While they are resting, heat your dwarf beans in a little boiling water and butter. Strain your sauce into the pan the duck breasts were in and deglaze (discard remainder), add the blackberries to warm through.

11.  Finish the sauce with a knob of butter and half a square of 70% dark chocolate.

12.  Remove potatoes, slice duck (adding any resting juices to the sauce), plate up and serve with the dwarf beans and sauce.  Enjoy!

What dishes do you cook when you're feeling cheffy or trying to impress?  I can certainly recommend this one!  Right, let's have a look at this Bake Off thing!



  1. You know what? I am really glad you started blogging, I love your recipes!

    I have never tried making potato galettes, but they are on my to-do list now!

  2. Hi, thanks a lot! I'm delighted that you like the recipes. When you try a galette let me know how it went. It's great to hear you're enjoying the blog. :-)

  3. Hi there,

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    We'd love to interview you for our site, would you be interested? Let me know at laurence@gourmandize.co.uk!

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