Duck with Blackberries

Duck is fatty and bad for you, right? Wrong – if you’re very careful about the preparation. A duck breast with skin is over 400 calories, but without skin and fat is just about 200 calories – no more (and according to some listings, less) than skinless chicken breast. And, unlike chicken breast, it’s much more tasty and can be served rare or pink, so doesn’t get dried out and tough. I cooked this last week with fresh blackberries that I picked in the alleyway at the back of my London house – but you could substitute blueberries, raspberries, kiwi fruit (chopped small), kumquat or perhaps other fruit….


For each person

  • 1 duck breast
  • 100g blackberries (or other soft fruit)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon (7g) sugar
  • 50ml white wine (or water)
  • Light soy sauce
  • White vinegar (I used Japanese Rice Vinegar but any light vinegar will do)
  • ½ teaspoon gravy granules


Ingredients for Duck

  1. With a sharp knife, score the surface of the skin of the duck breast, cutting through to the fat. It’s not necessary to make a pretty pattern as you’ll be throwing away the skin later, you just want to ensure the fat drains away. Leave it on the board at room temperature while you make the blackberry sauce.


    Caramelising the sugar

  2. Wash the blackberries and put them, the wine (or water) and a wooden spoon near to hand
  3. Put the spoonful of sugar (only permitted because it helps the medicine go down) in a small pan and lightly caramelise it – i.e. heat until the sugar melts and starts to go a tinge of gold – this will probably only take 1 minute, 2 at most.
  4. Immediately add the blackberries and wine (or water) to the pan, reduce the heat to minimum and stir violently with the spoon to dissolve the caramelised sugar into the liquid.
  5. Add 1 teaspoon soy sauce and 1 teaspoon vinegar (more of either can be added later to adjust seasoning if you like), keep stirring to combine
  6. Thicken the fruit sauce with the half teaspoon of gravy granules (fewer calories than flour or cornflour, and the quantity is negligible anyway) and bring to the boil. Then immediately turn off the heat and leave while you cook the duck.
  7. Now, turn on the kitchen extractor fan if you have one, or open a nearby window if you haven’t! (Grilling duck creates a lot of fumes).
  8. If you have a griddle (similar to mine in the picture), heat it for a minute or two – you don’t need to grease it. Then, place the duck breast skin side down on the griddle and cook for 7 minutes, draining the fat once or twice to a convenient receptacle. Then turn the duck breast and cook skin side up for another 3 minutes (if you like your duck rare) or 5 minutes (more cooked – just pink). Please your inner vampire by leaving it as rare as you can tolerate – duck gets tough if overcooked.


    First cook the skin side then turn and cook the other side

  9. If you do not have a griddle, you can cook this in a heavy frying pan but you do need to drain the fat more often and not lose attention for a moment. Another alternative is to grill the duck – if doing that, grill the skin side up first for 7 minutes then turn and cook the other side. Also, be sure to line the grill tray first with foil unless you really love washing up congealed fat.
  10. Remove the duck breast to a chopping board and, with a sharp knife, remove all the fat and skin as a single layer, leaving just the meat. Why, you might ask, not simply remove the skin and fat before cooking? Well, the answer is that the meat gets tough and overcooked and the tiny amount of duck fat that makes it onto the surface of the meat during cooking really improves the flavour more than it prejudices your diet. Well then, you say, why not just leave the skin and fat as they do in restaurants, and then leave it on the plate when you eat? Because there’s a danger that you would be naughty and eat some (or all) of it…


    Removing skin and fat from duck breast after cooking

  11. Slice the duck vertically, arrange on a warmed plate. Add fruit sauce (reheating first if necessary). Serve with green vegetables of your choice, and starch if you insist.

Ingredients for Duck Breast