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Duck Breast with Redcurrant and Port Sauce

Duck Breast with Redcurrant and Port Sauce

Duck Breast with Redcurrant and Port Sauce

Duck is my favourite poultry.  That said though, for some reason I seemed to struggle when cooking it.  Overcooking, undercooking, drying it out or ending up with a smoke filled house because of all that hot duck fat.  I decided it was time to focus on getting it right.  Getting it right every time.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 to 40 minutes

Ingredients for 4 Servings
For the Duck
4 x duck breasts (skin on) each weighing about 180gr / 6.3 oz. to 200gr / 7 oz. (give or take)
Some rough sea salt
Freshly Ground Black pepper

For the Redcurrant and Port Sauce
300ml / 10 fl. oz. good quality chicken stock
200gr / 7 oz. red currants
20gr / 0.7 oz. unsalted butter
1 x shallot chopped finely
2 x tsp of fresh thyme leaves
4 x tsp of port (ruby or tawny)
2 x tbsp of honey
Salt and pepper to taste


For the Duck

  1. Put the oven on to heat it to 200°C/400°F. While the oven is heating, start the cooking process in a heavy bottomed frying pan/skillet.
  2. Sprinkle the salt and pepper on the skin side of the duck and rub it in.
  3. Place your pan on the hob/stove top. Put the duck breasts in the cold pan, skin side down. Turn on the heat to medium high and allow the duck to cook, leave it alone while this happens. If it starts to smoke too much, turn down the heat a little.
  4. Once you can see that the duck has cooked about a little more than half way by looking at the side of it to see the colour change, it should be transferred to the oven. This should take about 10 to 15 minutes, but of course it depends on the thickness of your duck and the intensity of the heat you use to cook it. You can do this in your pan if it has a metal handle, or you can transfer the duck to a roasting tray if your pan has a plastic or other unsuitable handle which won’t withstand the heat of the oven. I do the latter. If you are planning to do this too, heat the roasting tray in the oven beforehand. The easiest way to do this is to place it in there whilst you wait for the oven to reach temperature. The duck should be placed in the oven skin side down.
  5. Once in the oven, cook it for a further 7 to 10 minutes.
  6. Remove and allow to rest for a further 7 minutes before slicing it.

Duck Breast with Redcurrant and Port Sauce

For the Redcurrant and Port Sauce

  1. Place half the butter in a pan and allow it to melt. Then add the shallots and cook them until softened on a medium high heat.
  2. Add the thyme, chicken stock, port, honey and a little salt and pepper. Add about ¾ of the red currants, keeping the rest back to add at the end of cooking.
  3. Turn up the heat to reduce the sauce until it is about 1/3 of its original volume.
  4. Turn down the heat, add the rest of the butter and whisk through until it is melted. Add the remaining berries, check for seasoning and serve poured over the duck.

Tips and Variations

  • It may seem strange to start the duck cooking on a low heat. After all, I’m always going on about getting pans hot before placing meat in them. The reason for this cold start with the duck is that it helps render the fat from the meat gradually, giving an even cook and a crispy skin.
  • The sauce works really well with cherries and blackberries too. Normally they are a little sweeter than redcurrants, so you could cut down on the amount of honey or add a squeeze of orange juice to balance the flavour should you prefer.
  • The redcurrant sauce works nicely with venison and other game birds like pheasant, partridge and quail. I have been known to serve it with game sausages, or a game pie which is great too.
  • You can make the sauce in advance and heat it up when you are ready to serve. It will keep in the fridge for a few days.
  • Keep the duck fat and use it to make roast potatoes.

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Duck Breast with Redcurrant and Port Sauce

Queen’s Day (after) : A Survival Guide

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Queen’s Day (after) Cooking Coach Survival Guide

Watermelon Salad

watermelon1 This summer, I’ve discovered watermelon again.  I literally haven’t eaten it for years.  Its one of those things that I’d got into my head as a child that I didn’t like, but they always look so good, and the shops are full of them at the moment.  So, I bit the bullet and bought a huge half last week, struggled home with it on the bike, quite an achievement!  Since then, I’ve been addicted, eating huge pieces each day, and have also been eating it in the following salad:

Serves about 4

500 gr watermelon chopped in cubes.
Bunch of mint chopped finely or torn.
1 small red onion choped finely in rings.

Mix the above ingredients together
150 gr feta, break up over the salad.”
drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over and finish with a grind of black pepper,

This is great as a starter, or if you add some baby spinach, and some walnuts, and eat with bread its a great lunch aswell.

Cullen Skink Comfort

Cullen Skink So, yes, it happened to me.  Last week after a visit to Scotland, I got stuck under the imfamous volcanic ash cloud.  After hearing it on the news, that the ash was heading our way, and that airspace in Scotland was closing in the morning, I still headed, optimistically to Edinburgh airport.

During my journey, being kept up-to-date by texts from friends that Edinburgh was still open, I began to relax.  This didn’t last long though. On entering the airport, craning my neck and straining my eyes to see the departures board, I could see that the vast majority of flights were cancelled, but, mine was still open, or was it, what? Oh no!  In the seconds that I stood before the board the message changed from “check in 16,17 and 18”  to “enquire at airline” to “cancelled”.

Anyway, nothing you can do. After a shrug of my shoulders, a couple of phonecalls, quick discussion at the airline desk to change my flight to the next day, I took myself back to the bus.  When on the bus trundling into town, I thought, could be worse, Edinburgh’s not a bad place to be stuck.  I decided to take myself off for a nice lunch, but where?  I had this huge bag with me, and didn’t feel like dragging it too far.  I thought about the bus route, where did it pass? where could I jump off and spring into a nice comfy eatery?  Then I realised, of course, at Waverly train station, just around the corner from the last bus stop, is the Doric Tavern, this would be my sanctuary.

Usually, I would never even consider going into a restaurant or bar near a train station.  The reason being that in the UK, unlike the rest of Europe it seems, these places are notoriously “dodgy”.  However, last summer during a visit to Edinburgh I went to the Doric with friends and was more than pleasantly surprised.


The Doric Tavern Website

The Doric Tavern promotes itself as the “Oldest Bistro in Edinburgh” and I reckon it could be.  It has a real traditional pub feeling on the ground floor, and up one flight of stairs there is a restarant area and a more informal bar area where you can eat aswell.  This time, I chose the bar area.  Although it was past 3 o’clock, there were still a couple of tables being served.  I really liked the fact that the place seems to be open all the time, there’s no stupid set meal times.  That really drives me crazy “lunch is served till 2pm” thing.

Their menu is well thought out, although it definately has a strong Scottish influence its not all the tourist rubbish.  Its a great place if you want to try haggis for the first time.  I chose a traditional Scottish soup called “Cullen Skink” with a not so Scottish side salad of rocket and parmesan.  Cullen Skink is based on smoked haddock, potatoes and milk.  Although it seems simple, it can go horribly wrong as the cook has to consider the seasoning very carefully working with smoked fish.

This cullen skink was great! Seasoned perfectly, lightly creamy, offering me just the comfort I needed after my volcanic disappointment.  So, I sat savouring my soup and salad, watching the other tables.  The thing I love about Edinburgh is the mix of people as well as the unpretentiousness of (most) places.  In this regard, the atmosphere has something in common with Amsterdam.  I read a little, and felt comfortable to stay there, even on my own.  The staff didn’t hurry me along.

Suitably fed, I felt ready to take on the world again, and headed off to my lodgings for that evening.