Recipe – Magret de canard (duck breast)


Duck is probably the most underestimated bird, however, it is far tastier than chicken or turkey, but not as ‘gamey’ as partridge or pheasant. It is extremely tasty and very versatile and particularly delicious with a fruity sauce. It’s cheaper than beef and more impressive on that dinner party menu!

The easiest thing to tell you is how to cook your duck breast and then give you a couple of different sauces and accompaniments to go with it.

Here we go:

To cook your duck breast

Rule of thumb is to allow one breast for two people. With everything else you will be serving with it, this is usually enough.

Firstly, put the duck breast, fat side down, into a cold frying pan. Don’t season at this point, particularly not salt, as this takes the moisture out of the meat and it will not be succulent. Put the frying pan over a medium heat and leave it until the fat side has turned golden brown. Meanwhile, the fat will melt off the breast (save this in a little pot for roasting your potatoes or making gravy – yummy!). Turn the breasts over and seal the other side for a few moments (not long). Put them, fat side up, into a roasting tin and over with tin foil. Pop them into a pre-heated oven (about 180°C) for 5-6 minutes, taking the tin foil off for the last minute or two. Then take them out, wrap them in tin foil, and allow to ‘rest’ for 10 minutes until you are ready to carve and serve.

They will be pink, but not rare so reduce the cooking time in the oven according to how you want them. If you want them rare, then just do them in the frying pan for about 10 minutes fat side down, turning over onto the flesh side for a minute or two at the end.

Always allow the meat to rest (it continues to cook while it does) and season it with salt and pepper at the last minute.

Serve it with…

Al dente green vegetables, carrots, dauphinoise potatoes or a home made creamy mashed potato (boil your spuds, season with salt and pepper, and mash into a smooth consistency with plenty of butter, milk and cream). You can change this slightly by mashing your potatoes with leaks, celeriac or roast parsnips and onions. A crunchy rosti, game chips or even French fries go well with this bird.


And now for a bit of sauce !

With a little of that duck fat, sauté some finely chopped onions, ginger and garlic, then add green pepper corns. Let this all infuse for a few minutes, then add a little cognac and some double cream. A few minutes before serving, add a few fresh figs cut into quarters and cook just long enough for them to heat through. Delicious!


With a little of that duck fat, sauté some finely chopped onions and garlic. Brown a little flour and then add a dash of red wine until the sauce thickens (add some water from whatever vegetables you are boiling if you want to thin it out a bit). Add a couple of heaped teaspoons of your favourite jam (mixed red berries is a good one) and Bob’s your uncle. For a quick cheat’s ‘à l’orange’ use a dash of cognac instead of wine and marmalade with a little added zest and juice from a fresh orange just to zing it up.


In the frying pan that you rendered the duck breast (and put the fat into a pot for use later), pour a glass of red wine and boil rapidly over a high heat. When nearly reduced, add ½ litre of chicken stock and again reduce rapidly, until you have a nice, thickened sauce. Add a knob of butter and 3 tbsp cassis (blackcurrant liquer) and whisk well. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then strain through a fine sieve into a clean pan. Add 100g blackberries, stir well and gently poach them until heated through.

Little effort; big impact !


Wine suggestion: Serve a rich red wine with your duck, such as the 2008 from DOMAINE LA MAURINE in Causses et Veyran, near Béziers. Full of dark red fruits, this superb wine made with Carignan and Grenache grapes has a floral (violet) and fruity (blackcurrent) nose, and a well rounded body that sits on the palete with soft lasting tanins. Excellent value for money.