Updated: Fri, 4 June, 2021
Duck with fruit is nothing new in the recipe world: duck a l'orange is a classic. But this is a little different: oven roasted duck fillets are served with blueberry sauce that you would be more used to seeing on porridge rather than meat.
Salt, pepper and... sugar?
If you think about it, sugar is a seasoning as much as salt and pepper are. My Grandma used to add sugar to everything she was cooking, as you would salt. A small amount of sugar in conjunction with salt enhances the flavour and vice versa, as the salted caramel addicts know well.
In fact I’m starting to think the division into sweet and savoury is completely artificial, perhaps excluding meringues. Virtually all fruit can be used in main course dishes or as an accompaniment to meat or fish.
Savoury or sweet or doesn't matter?
And the other way round too: traditionally savoury ingredients in desserts may surprise you. Bacon ice cream aside, I’ve had Brie flavoured ice cream once in a restaurant and it was excellent.
Blue cheese with roasted fruit is a common enough dessert: especially figs and peaches are gorgeous baked with a crumble of Gorgonzola. Black pepper works wonders on strawberries according to some.
Lines between sweet and savoury get blurry: I like my jam on Gouda cheese and honey on everything. The Greeks mix feta cheese with honey and cucumber. You can make soup from sour cherries and a pudding from a chicken breast. A little sugar does wonders in tomato sauce and already mentioned salted caramel – I rest my case.
Duck likes fruit
Duck is an obvious sweet-savoury fusion material, possibly because the meat is so fatty and rich. It needs to be tamed with something tangy, sweet and fruity. A l’orange, plum sauce, hoisin sauce will spring to mind immediately but I paired it with blueberries and it’s double the winner as the berries create a striking contrast in colour too.
How to roast a duck breast fillet?
It is perfectly possible to cook a duck fillet in the oven. Whack the heat up to maximum and generously salt the duck, especially the skin side. If you have a cast iron pan, use it; otherwise a heavy, oven-proof frying pan will do. Heat either up to almost a smoking point.
Scatter some coarse salt on the bottom (it makes the skin extra crispy), land the duck fillets skin-side on it and immediately, carefully transfer the pan to the oven. After five minutes turn the fillets over and cook them for another three or four, for medium rare or medium. And a good rest is crucial, while you finish off the sauce.
Blueberry sauce for meat
My blueberry sauce is as genius (boastful? moi??) as it is simple. It takes about ten minutes to prepare. Rosemary gives a hint of ‘I’m here for the meat’ flavour and stirring in fresh fruit at the end of the cooking ensures it’s berries in the sauce, rather than jam.
And any leftovers can be happily spread on pancakes for breakfast.
blueberry duckServings: 2Time: 40 minutes
- 2 duck fillets
- salt and black pepper
- For the sauce:
- 400g (just under a pound) fresh blueberries
- 30g (2 tbsp.) dark brown sugar
- 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- ½ lime
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp cornflour
- 1 tbsp. coarse sea salt
1. Score the duck skin with several slashes across, season each fillet with salt and pepper, especially generously on the skin side. Set aside while you make the sauce. You can salt the duck fillets up to a day ahead.
2. Reserve a third of the blueberries and place the rest in a saucepan with half a cup of water. Add the sugar, rosemary, lime quarters and black pepper and bring it to a vigorous boil. Cook it for 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the liquid starts to evaporate.
3. Remove the rosemary and lime. Stir the cornflour with a couple of tablespoons of water and add to the sauce. Let it bubble for a second and take it off the heat. Stir in the reserved blueberries.
4. Preheat the oven as high as it will go with a rack in the lowest position. Preheat a cast iron pan on the hob until smoking. Pat the duck skin with a paper towel to make sure it’s completely dry.
5. Scatter the coarse salt over the cast iron pan, place the duck fillets in skin side down and immediately transfer the pan to the preheated oven. Roast for 5 minutes then carefully turn the fillets over and roast for further 3 minutes for medium rare, 4 for medium.
6. Transfer the duck fillets onto a warm plate and let them rest for at least 5 minutes.
7. Slice thickly across and spoon the blueberry sauce over the meat.