Hello Dear Reader,
Amazingly this is my very first duck recipe on Vohn’s Vittles.
Well, I find it amazing, as duck is by far my favourite variety of poultry.
The duck people at Gressingham are less surprised as recent research suggests that whilst 80% of us eat duck we do so mainly at restaurants and rarely cook it at home. Indeed, even though I’m a keen home cook and food blogger, I don’t think I have ever cooked duck from scratch before! I was quite pleased with my first ever duck dish.
The sweet and sour redcurrants cut through the rich duck and the warm but subtle spicing is perfect for the Christmassy feeling I’m starting to get!
Gressingham Duck had asked me to create a special weekend night dinner with their duck as the central ingredient. First off I needed to find out a bit more about Gressingham Duck. I had heard it talked of by chefs as their preferred duck but was never entirely sure if Gressingham was a place, a breed, a brand or a company. Turns out it is all of those things!
Gressingham is a village in Lancaster, England.
Gressingham duck is a unique breed of duck, which is a cross between wild mallard and Pekin duck.
Gressingham duck was named after the village of Gressingham, as it was here that the first cross occurred in 1980.
Gressingham Duck is a copyrighted brand name.
Gressingham Foods is a company and has exclusive rights to breed Gressingham Ducks.
My lovely hamper arrived from Gressingham, with duck galore and a lovely apron and a handy meat thermometer.
What to make with such delicious duck?
My first thoughts were of Asia – from spring rolls to aromatic crispy duck – but some quick internet research showed a multitude of recipes for both. I also found lots of recipes for duck with cranberries and the richness of duck does indeed marry well with the sourness of cranberries. However cranberries are imported by air from North America and my shopping rules only allow for ingredients like this when there is no local alternative. My mind immediately conjured up the flavour of redcurrants and I just knew their sweet and sour notes would be perfect. Although seasonally a summer fruit, a local glut this year means redcurrants are still available, as much of the crop has been frozen.
Next thought – how do you cook duck breast? As a devourer of all forms of Masterchef I’ve watched many a contestant cook duck, some with success and some with scathing criticism. I reckoned I had a pretty good idea of what to do and the Gressingham Duck website is a mine of helpful information too!
How to cook Gressingham duck breasts
Once the fat is removed duck breast is actually lower in fat than chicken! So it is a lean and healthy meat.
If you are cooking it with the skin on, then it is key to cook it in such a way that this fat is rendered down and removed.
1) Preheat oven to 200°C. If your frying pan cannot go into an oven at this temperature, then also preheat a roasting tin.
Use kitchen towel to dry the skin of the duck breasts. Score the skin with a sharp knife. Place the duck breast skin-side down in a cold frying pan.
2) Turn the heat on to maximum. As soon as the duck starts to sizzle, turn the heat down to low and fry for 15 minutes until golden and crisp. During this time regularly drain off the fat that is released and spoon into a heat-proof jar.
This fat can be kept in the fridge and makes for fabulous roast potatoes or popcorn.
Season the duck with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper and turn to brown other side for a minute on medium-high heat.
3) Turn back to skin side down and put frying pan in oven, or transfer duck to preheated roasting tin (skin-side down). Roast for 10-15 minutes. Put a plate in the oven to pre-heat at the same time.
4) Remove duck from oven and leave in a warm place to rest. This resting period is important to allow the meat to relax, after having been in the oven, which redistributes the juices from the centre to throughout the meat.
My method for resting is to put the meat on a hot preheated plate, cover loosely with tin foil and leave on the kitchen counter for about 6 minutes.
5) After resting slice the duck breasts and serve.
A little too well cooked for my liking but perfect for Mr Vohn. I’ll know to go for only 10 minutes in the oven for mine next time, so they are still pink.
Since my duck had come all the way from England (the most food miles for my fresh meat in a while!), I went super local with the veg and picked them up at a farm shop I was passing. One of the joys of getting muddy tatties is you don’t know what to expect when you clean them. I actually exclaimed with surprise when the mud washed off to reveal these beauties!
They are organic Arran Victory potatoes, which are so wonderfully floury that I simply boiled them, drained and then crushed them with butter, salt and pepper.
I also picked up this very pretty red curly kale and dark green Cavalo Nero, both grown organically at Pillars of Hercules in Fife. These I rinsed, seasoned simply with salt & pepper and steamed in my bamboo steamer for 12 minutes on top of the potatoes as they boiled.
I prepped the potatoes and veggies whilst the duck was frying and cooked them whilst it was in the oven – easy!
The spiced sweet and sour red currants can be made in advance and reheated, or made while the duck is resting.
Spiced sweet and sour red currants – recipe
- 100g redcurrants (fresh or frozen)
- 3 juniper berries, crushed
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- 2 tbsp port
- ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1-2 tsp brown sugar
Place all the ingredients, except the sugar, in a pan.
Bring to boil, then turn down heat and simmer for five minutes.
Break the red currants gently with a spoon.
Stir in 1 tsp sugar and cook gently for another minute.
Taste & add more sugar if necessary (depends on your palate and the ripeness of the fruit).
Cook another minute and serve.
Legalese: I was sent a hamper by Gressingham duck and a supermarket voucher to use towards ingredients.