duck breast with broccoli

for something that looks so good to eat, duck is not my favourite meat. (surely it’s not just me who looks at big fat birds lolling about riversides and thinks – dinner?). i like its feathery, plump-breasted friends of different shapes and sizes – i am quite partial to geese and all manner of small things like quails, pheasants and pigeons. i do love chinese crispy duck too but that takes us back to the deep frying thing: you could deep fry my (insert unattractive body part, in my case usually a foot) and it would be tasty. i guess duck to me is on a par with lamb – i like it but i would probably not order it in restaurants as i will always get more excited by pork or beef or even fish.

but sometimes, of an evening, you will find yourself with nothing to eat but a couple of frozen duck breasts. and sometimes, you just have to keep your husband happy.

we knew duck breast cooking would be like steak – get the heat up high, whack the meat on for a couple of minutes, and don’t procrastinate. but i was hoping there’d be something else to this dinner, basically something to offset the punch of the fatty meat.

so i did what i always do. i lean on the lounge doorway, standing on one leg, and leaf through cookery books while hoping the whole (ikea) bookshelf doesn’t collapse under their weight. or rather, i do, what my tutor at university once called citing milton, “a mouse hunt of an index”.

it’s amazing how different cookery book indices can be. some seem compiled by people who have clearly never cooked. others are specific to the point of obsession, breaking down foodstuffs into the smallest components you could think of. they’re my favourite. i like a bit of detail even if i myself am not very good at it. if there is no separate entry for red snapper and i have to search under fish, forget it. i want to see both. and “snapper, red”. there is a great pleasure to be derived from a good index and i don’t care how geeky that sounds.

i wasn’t doing very well with the duck though. i found one recipe which consisted of, more or less, telling you to fry it until it's cooked. eeer, thanks for that. and then – bingo. hidden in the giant tome that is locatelli’s taste of italy was a marvellous, tasty and quick recipe that had to be written down. and it really was lovely. i think it's the worcestershire sauce that makes it, as there is very little else to the whole thing.

for two

2 duck breasts
1 head of broccoli separated into florets
1 tbs worcestershire sauce
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced
salt and pepper
olive oil

bring the duck breasts out of the fridge about an hour before you want to cook them. preheat the oven to 220C.

when you're ready to start, blanch the florets in boiling salted water for about a minute, just to soften the broccoli. drain and keep on one side.

season the duck. get an ovenproof saute pan medium hot, then put in the duck, skin-side down (no oil - the duck is fatty enough), and cook until the skin turns golden. turn over, cook for one minute and then turn down the heat. take the duck out and keep in a warm place.

drain the fat from the pan, add the worcestershire sauce and about 2tbs of olive oil and stir to emulsify. turn off the heat. if it doesn't look like there'll be enough, add a bit more worcestershire sauce and a bit more oil.

heat a saute pan, add more olive oil and put in garlic and chilli, and cook without colouring for a few minutes. add the broccoli and saute until soft, again without allowing to colour.

put the duck into a roasting tray and put in the oven for two or three minutes - this should make it still pink and bloody so cook for longer if you don't like it.


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