Duck breast with plums and cauliflower purée is the ultimate romantic date-night dinner. Plums are a delicious seasonal alternative to the more predictable orange. The plum flavour comes alive with the addition of star anise, and marries well with the Chinese five-spice we use to season the duck.
Pair this meal with a crisp, dry rosé or a light pinot noir. If you’re out to impress someone special, finish with a light, tangy mandarin sorbet.
Tips for Cooking Duck Breast with Plums
Unlike chicken, duck is not unsafe to eat when it is undercooked. It should be served pink. If it is overcooked, it will be tough.
Always choose free-range duck breasts. Not only is it better for the welfare of the animal, but it also tastes better.
For crispy skin, place the duck breasts skin-side up on a cutting board. Pat the skin dry with a paper towel or clean tea towel. If possible, leave the duck breasts uncovered in the fridge for several hours to fully dry out.
When you are ready to cook, remove the duck breasts from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking. Score the skin with a sharp knife, and season well with salt and pepper. Do not add any oil or fat.
Place the duck breasts skin-side down in a cold pan before placing the pan over a medium heat. This is an important step to ensure the fat renders from underneath the skin. If you put the duck breasts in a hot pan, it will seal in the fat and you’ll end up with a duck breast that is too fatty.
You can use any kind of plums for this recipe, but try to choose a large, plump variety with a deep red or purple flesh.
Duck Breast with Plums
- 2 TBS butter
- ½ onion roughly chopped
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 2 tsp fresh thyme
- ⅓ head cauliflower cut into florets
- 1 cup full-cream milk
- Salt to taste
- White pepper to taste
- 2 free range duck breasts
- ½ tsp Chinese 5-spice or to taste
- Salt and pepper
- 30 g butter
- 1 star anise
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 shallot (or half an onion) diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1-2 TBS brown or demerara sugar
- 4 fresh plums pitted & quartered
- 1-2 TBS butter
For the Cauliflower Purée
- Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and thyme and cook gently, stirring frequently, until onion is soft and translucent but not coloured.
- Add cauliflower and milk so that cauliflower is half-submerged in the milk. You may need to add a little more milk if your cauliflower is large.
- Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes or until cauliflower is very soft.
- Remove bay leaves and any twigs of thyme. Blend cauliflower mixture with a stick blender until silky smooth. Taste for seasoning. Set aside.
For the Duck Breasts
- If you have time to leave the duck for a few hours or overnight, begin here. Pat skin dry with a paper towel or clean tea towel. Sprinkle with salt and leave the duck breasts in the fridge, uncovered, for several hours or overnight. This will draw out the moisture to help achieve a crispy skin. When ready to use, wipe the salt off before commencing the next step.
- Preheat oven to 180°c. Pat duck skin dry, and score the skin with a very sharp knife. Season with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle the underside of breast evenly with Chinese 5-spice.
- Place duck breast skin-side down in a cold, heavy-based pan and cook over a medium heat. After a couple of minutes, add the butter to the pan. When it melts, add the star anise and thyme and baste the breast with the melted butter as it continues to cook until the skin is brown and crispy. This whole process will take 6 to 8 minutes.
- Transfer breasts skin side up to a baking tray and cook in the preheated oven for 6 minutes while you begin making the sauce. Remove tray and set aside in a warm place to rest while you finish making the sauce.
For the Plum Sauce
- Spoon off most of the duck fat, leaving about 3 tablespoons in the pan, along with the juices, star anise and thyme. Add shallot/onion to pan and cook until translucent. Add bay leaf, chicken stock, sugar and plums and cook until plums are tender and liquid is reduced.
- Remove plums with a slotted spoon and strain the sauce into a bowl. Whisk in the butter until emulsified and shiny. Check and adjust seasoning. Return the plums to the sauce and heat through.
- Slice the duck breast and whisk any juices that run off into the sauce. Reheat the cauliflower if necessary and place a generous spoonful on each plate. Pile plums next to the puree, top with slices of duck breast, and pour sauce onto the plate to cover the bottom. Serve immediately with steamed asparagus, broccolini, or buttered spinach.