Pan-roasted Duck with Persimmon & Turnip tops
‘How many are you cooking for?”
It’s the question I dread, even from Struan my friendly butcher round the corner at Provenance. But at least I didn’t lie today.
“It’s just me tonight.” As if that were unusual. But anyway, it wasn’t but I was feeling like cooking. For the last few weekends I’d been just banging out uber-quick stuff – pasta, and pressure cooker risotto – as I’d been either procrastinating doing my company accounts, or actually doing them. So on this rather cold, autumnal verging-on-Christmas Saturday night, I felt like having a small treat that didn’t involve roasting a chicken that would end up being several meals over the next week.
The Creedy Carver duck breasts are sold in an annoying pack of 2, so there’s one in the freezer that I will do my best to remember. And very fine duck breasts they are too. Struan was keen to remind me that these are slow-reared, first in a heated barn (with a pool no less) then moved outside into the Devon countryside. And boy can you taste the difference…the fat renders beautifully but the flesh is so juicy with a real depth of flavour and enough internal fat to stop it drying out. Really worth searching out if you’re going to try this dish.
I had an idea of using pomegranate molasses as I hit Alan and Lyn’s veg stall on Portobello road and that made me think I wanted something bitter to counter the sweetness and fattiness. And there, like shiny white baubles, lay neatly bundled turnips with their flowing green leaves. Known by the fooderati as Cime de Rape, I prefer the alliterative Turnip Tops. And what’s more, the turnips were going to be gratinated with the remainder of a pot of double cream that’s needing to be used.
And then I saw the boxes of what I call persimmons but Alan seems to like calling Kaki fruit. Having just looked this up, I now know that Alan is clearly better educated in frutarian matters than I, as diospyrous kaki is the correct name for the Japanese Persimmon, which I will have you know, is one of the oldest fruits in cultivation being grown in China for at least 2000 years. As it happens I’ve just been editing a film featuring the chef Brad McDonald from Lockhart & now Shotgun who pairs persimmon with venison and red-eye gravy – and very lush it looks too. And if it’s good enough for him, then its good enough for my duck. 40p later (and another £2.30 for the turnips, 3 perfect William pears, carrots and a couple of onions (bloody love my market) and we were ready to rock and roll. So here you are…and I have to say, it’s one of the best things I’ve cooked all year. And what’s more, this would be very easy to adapt if you wanted to scale it up to using a whole duck, a venison fillet or even a partridge or pheasant. Basically anything that would benefit of that counter of sweet/sour/bitter that these flavours bring.
- 1 free range duck breast
- sea salt
- 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 tsp honey
- juice of half a small orange (about 4 tbsp)
- one star anise (or 1/4 tsp ground if you have it)
- a few coriander seeds
- 3 cloves
- half a persimmon, sliced thinly
- a handful of cime di rape, kale or sprinach
- 1 tsp of butter
- seasoning to taste
- Using a sharp knife, score the fat on the duck breast in a hatch pattern, being careful not to cut into the skin.
- Sprinkle on a little sea salt to the fat
- In a shallow bowl, mix together the molasses, orange juice and hone, with a couple of table spoons of water. Make sure the honey is dissolved.
- In the pan you’re going to use for the duck, heat the spices until they become fragrant. Add to the marinade to infuse for a few minutes.
- Add the duck to the marinade, cover and leave for a couple of hours or overnight if you’re ridiculously organised.
- From here on out this dish really doesn’t take long, so about 15 minutes before you want to eat, heat the oven to 180C fan. I have a combi steam oven and also introduce about 40% steam.
- Heat a frying pan until it is smoking hot. Remove the duck from the marinade and dry it. Place it fat side down in the pan and render the fat. The pomegranate molasses will make it look like it’s burning, but don’t worry. When the fat is getting crisp, turn the breast and brown the flesh side for about 1 minute.
- Drain off the fat from the pan, and put the pan with the breast into the oven and cook for 8 minutes for medium. 6 for rare. 10 for well done – although I’d rather you didn’t.
- While the duck is in the oven, slice the persimmon and cut the greens into ribbons.
- When the duck is done, remove it from the oven and rest on a warm plate. Put the pan back on the hob, on a medium to high heat (be careful as the handle will be hot – you’ll need a cloth) and deglaze the pan with the left-over marinade and a little water or stock if you have it. Reduce until it just coats the back of a spoon. Taste and season. Then add the persimmon to soften a little and the greens to wilt. Stir in the butter to give a good gloss.
- Slice the duck and arrange on a warm plate pouring any resting juices into the sauce before serving with the persimmon and greens.