Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pan-fried duck breasts with bramble sauce

Another busy week. Working in the wine trade means we are just coming into our busiest time of year... Most regular readers will know that I work in the wine business but may well not know of the other distinctly foodie arrow to my bow. I am also the food buyer for the company and my major responsibility is putting together our Christmas food and wine gifts: luxury hampers, cases of traditional Christmas foods to send to relatives abroad, Port and Stilton... You name it.

I've been 'testing' mince pies, Christmas puddings and cakes since February. I've become extremely popular in the office after box after box of samples have arrived for me to taste my way through prior to making my selections.

The gifts brochure has now been sent out to the public and I'll just have to wait to see whether or not I chose wisely...

One of the upshots of all this work is that my cupboards fill with delicious and often unusual chutneys, jams, relishes and sauces. Perfect hamper-fillers. The bramble jelly above is pretty divine on hot buttered toast or crumpets but I wanted to use if for something more interesting.

Duck is right in season currently and is one of my favourite birds. I love the combination of the rich, slightly gamey meat when paired with sweet autumnal fruit. Blackberries go particularly well and I added some fresh berries to prevent the sauce being too sweet - the acidic bite of the brambles cut through the rich meat perfectly.

I served the duck on a parsnip and potato rosti - very simple to make though I probably wouldn't want to make them for huge numbers. All that grating takes a bit of effort. Mind you, you could use a food processor.

To top this rather delicious (but extremely un-photogenic) dish off, I steamed some Savoy cabbage with some peas.

Pan-fried duck breasts with bramble sauce


2 duck breasts
4-6 shallots
1 glass Port
1 heaped tablespoon bramble jelly
handful of fresh blackberries
knob or two of butter

1. Peel the shallots and prize apart into two halves. Easiest way to do this fiddly task is to place them in a bowl, cover them with boiling water and leave for a minute or two. When you remove them, the skin should peel off far easier. Melt butter in a large frying pan and gently fry the shallots until they start to soften.

2. Meanwhile, score the fat on the duck breasts and season with salt and pepper.

3. Once the shallots have started to soften, push them to the sides of the pan. Increase the heat a little and add the duck breasts, skin side down. Fry for approx four minutes, turn and do the same on the other side. Timing is obviously variable depending on size of duck breast. I like my duck quite pink in the middle (though not super-rare as I do beef). Four minutes each side would have been about right for me (I slightly overdid mine). Once cooked to your liking, remove duck from pan, cover with foil and leave to rest while you make the sauce.

4. If there is a lot of fat in the pan, pour some of this off (great for roasting potatoes at a later date). With the heat still reasonably high, pour in the Port. It should sizzle and spit a little. With a wooden spoon, scrape up all the lovely shallotty, ducky goodness.

5. Add bramble jelly and half the blackberries. Squidge the blackberries into the sauce as they heat through. Bubble and reduce until on the brink of syrupy. Taste and season. At the last minute, throw in the remaining blackberries and warm through before serving with the duck breasts.

Parsnip and potato rosti

1. Pre-heat oven to 180C. On a coarse setting, grate equal quantities of potato and parsnip. Place the grated veg on in the centre of a clean tea-towel. Take the corners of the towel to the centre to create a bundle and squeeze as hard as you can to get rid of as much water as possible.

2. Mould into round patties (I used a large biscuit butter for shape as you can see in the above photo). Fry in melted butter for a few minutes on each side. Finish off on a baking sheet in the oven for 10 minutes.

Wine match: I'd often choose pinot noir with duck, but here with the rich brambly sauce, Syrah/Shiraz would be my grape of choice whether it be from France, Australia or elsewhere.


Elra said...

That is one glorious job you have there, I always wanted to have a job with food or fashion related. But, for now, I am just happy with being a home maker.

I love duck, though I don't make it as often as I want to, when I do, it has to be something special. ramble sauce sound superb.

Sam said...

Sounds like you have a hard job, but I suppose somebody's got to do it!

Loving Annie said...

I wish I worked in your office to help test out all the potential hamper fillers for Christmas !

Hope sales go well during the upcoming holiday season, and your boss is proud of your choices.

Peter M said...

All hail duck and I like your method of making the rosti with the molds.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I think I've gone off you a bit! The wine was one thing but now the food as well, what a wonderful job.

This looks lovely, I don't know why I don't cook more duck.

Caitlin said...

We learnt a similar recipe at my Leiths cooking course. The duck is even better if you just fry it fat side down, pouring off the fat as you go (saving for roast potatoes is a great idea), until the fat is very brown and crisp. Then finish the duck off in the oven for about eight to ten minutes, depending how pink you like it and how hot your oven is. It makes the fat part crisp and the meat part far less greasy. Then you would make the blackberry and port sauce separately.

Antonia said...

Elra - like all jobs it has good parts and bad, but picking the food for the hampers is pretty good really. I don't make duck dishes often enough either.

Sam - you said it!

Annie - thank you for stopping by. I think my co-workers are pretty pleased that I took on this new role with all the goodies they get to nibble on!

Peter - I used to just shape them by hand but the moulds can make them look a little tidier.

Ginger - Similarly, I don't really cook duck as often as I should. I really love the flavour.

Caitlin - Thanks for the tip. I thought about finishing them off in the oven. Only I wanted some of the meaty flavour in the sauce too - I'm never so happy with sauces that haven't used the lovely scrapings from the pan. Luckily this bit of duck had quite a thin layer of fat as it was Barbary duck so wasn't too greasy once I'd poured off the fat, but thank you for a good tip for future.

Rosie said...

Antonia this is one gorgeous seasonal dish. The bramble sauce sounds a perfect to serve with duck breast.

What a wonderful job, wine and now food, I'm green with envy lol...

Rosie x