J’ai du pain sur la planche!
To say that I have been busy recently would be an understatement. I’ve reached that point in the semester where all my assignments are due (why must they all be due at the same time??), and I’ve been spending most of my time at my computer reading, researching and writing. When I do venture outside of the house, it’s to go to uni, and then swiftly back home again to my desk: read, research, write, repeat.
The weather in Melbourne has suddenly become very wintry and cold, which has actually been somewhat of a blessing in disguise, as staying inside and studying has appeared a favourable alternative to venturing out into the torrential rain. Truthfully, I don’t mind the cold weather. I much prefer it to the inescapable heat of summer. I like thick wooly jumpers and curling up on the couch with a rug and good book, and I especially like winter comfort food. Everything seems to move a little more slowly in the colder months, including the way we prepare our meals. Recently I’ve been enjoying making porridge for breakfast (cooked in a pot on the stove – the proper way), and I think it’s only a matter of time before I start making big pots of soup and slow-cooked casseroles. It puts a smile on my face just thinking about it.
This meal has all the warmth and flavour of comfort food without the long cooking time. There’s something very decadent about duck – probably the richness of the meat – but it’s actually surprisingly easy to cook. The subtle flavours of the potato and turnip mash work beautifully as a base, while the sweet acidity of the cherry sauce cuts through the richness of the gamey meat.
The cooking times listed below produce duck meat that is still slightly pink inside, which is really the best way to have it. Overcooking the duck will cause it to become dry and unpalatable. If you’re unsure whether the meat is properly cooked, use a meat thermometer to test the internal temperature. I hope you have success with this recipe – leave me a comment below and let me know how it turned out!
Roast Duck Breast with Potato & Turnip Mash and Cherry Sauce
2 duck breasts
2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into 3cm chunks
1 large turnip, peeled and chopped into 3cm chunks
1tsp dried thyme
1tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
salt & pepper, to taste
1 tbsp butter
1 cup pitted morello cherries
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp sherry
1 tbsp raw sugar
- Preheat oven to 180ºC. Place thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper in a mortar and pestle and grind until mixed. Using a sharp knife, score a criss-cross pattern into the skin of the duck breast. Rub the herb mix into the skin. Place duck skin-side down into a frying pan over medium heat [do not use any oil], and allow to cook for 12-15 minutes until the fat has rendered.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to the boil on the stove. When the water is boiling, add the potatoes and the turnips and cook until tender (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat, drain the water from the pot, return the cooked vegetables to the pot and put the lid on to keep the heat in until ready to mash.
- Once the duck has been in the frying pan for 12 or so minutes, the fat should be rendered and the skin golden. Transfer the duck breasts to a baking dish, skin-side up, and cook in the oven for 15 minutes. When 15 minutes has elapsed, turn the oven off and leave the duck to rest in the oven for a further 5 minutes before removing.
- While the duck is in the oven, bring the cherries and 1/4 cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Once boiling, mash the cherries and add 1 tbsp sherry. Reduce the heat to low and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Stir through the 1 tbsp raw sugar, and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Add 1 tbsp butter to the potatoes and turnips and mash until smooth. Remove the duck from the oven, and slice diagonally into pieces. Place a dollop of mash on each plate, topped with duck slices and cherry sauce.
Keeping time: the duck and cherry sauce will both keep for 3 days in the fridge. Mash is always best eaten on the day it’s made, but will last an additional day in the fridge if need be.