Saturday, 1 December 2012

Meat and fruit? Roast duck breast with plum sauce

My immediate reaction when anyone suggests a recipe combining fruit with meat, without being specific, is a kind of inner grimace. What normally springs to my mind is the Moroccan lamb or chicken and apricot/raisin combination. It's just too sweet for me, and those kind of combinations need to be tempered with other flavours to tone that down. Nigella's African Chicken is a case in point - it's one of the meals I cook most regularly from Kitchen - the children absolutely love it - and involves marinading chicken pieces in a sauce of apricot jam, but the sweetness is offset by mustard, ground ginger, Worcestershire sauce. Without that, I couldn't stomach the apricot-iness of it all. Not that I don't like apricots, you understand, just not with meat.
However, that fruit/meat induced grimace is a hugely misplaced over-reaction on my part. I don't really know why it's that which springs to mind, because I can point to any number of meals I cook and eat regularly where meat and fruit do actually work brilliantly together - anything pork with anything apple, for example; lamb with redcurrant jelly. To my mind, and more importantly my palate, it's the sharpness of the fruit cutting through the fattiness of the meat that I love, and that works. Another fantastic dish that highlights how well fruit and meat do work together, is duck and plums - it's just a brilliant celebratory pairing. The classic that everyone thinks of, perhaps, is crispy Peking duck with pancakes, plum sauce and those little strips of cucumber or spring onion - the darling of the Chinese restaurant, but you can also cook plums in a rich sauce spiced with star anise. to go with duck breasts that are pan-fried, then finished off in the oven.

Oven Roasted Duck Breasts & Plums
serves 2
2 duck breasts
salt and pepper
couple of sprigs of thyme
knob of butter

olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
4 plums, stoned and halved, each half sliced into 3 pieces
300ml beef stock (I used a Kallo organic beef stock cube)
50ml freshly squeezed orange juice (I had already zested an orange for a dessert I was making)
1 star anise
40g soft brown sugar

Heat the oven to 180C. 

Wipe dry the duck breasts with kitchen roll, score the skin with a sharp knife and grind some salt and pepper over the skin. Set aside. 

Heat a lug of olive oil in a pan, add the chopped onion and cook for 5 minutes till softened. Add the plums and sugar and stir till the sugar has dissolved before adding the stock and orange juice, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes or so till the plums are soft and the sauce has thickened slightly.

To cook the duck, heat a frying pan, ideally one which you can put in the oven. Lay the duck breasts in, skin side down, and cook for 6-7 minutes. Turn the breasts over, add the thyme sprigs and the butter, and when the butter is melted, baste the meat then pop the pan in the oven. Depending on how well cooked you like your duck, leave it in the oven for 5-6 minutes, for pink, and up to 10 minutes for well done. After the alloted time, remove the pan from the oven, baste the meat with the pan juices again, then cover with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes or so.

To serve, slice the meat and serve on a bed of baby leaves with the plum sauce on the side. 

Not the best presentation, granted, but go with the flavours!
Some new potatoes, parboiled then roasted in olive oil with a good sprinkle of sea salt flakes, go really well too.


  1. I've had duck with fruit sauce before, and I was surprised it paired well together.

  2. Oh my! I read this and it could have been me talking - lamb with apricots, no thanks. But - like you, i love duck with plum. I've also made duck with a cherry sauce that worked really well too.

    1. mmm like the sound of cherries with duck.


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