Well, it’s September….the evenings are beginning to close in…and the blackberries are there for the picking. Duck famously goes with something sweet – often orange, or cherry but the mix of the sweet Marsala (or you could use red vermouth or port) and the berries – both black and juniper – is a bit more arresting.
In Georgia, in the Caucasus, they serve a dish of chicken tabaka in a blackberry sauce. In this case grapes are added to the blackberries, and the sweetness is derived from pomegranate molasses.
You can save washing up by crisping skin on hot roasting pan rather than using a frying pan.
The rich roasted duck goes well with roasted new potatoes – ideally mixed heritage potatoes – go to Interviewing Nicki Crawley for a great method; and spinach – either simply cooked or as a salad dressed with oil and raspberry vinegar.
Recipe for duck breasts with rich Marsala and blackberry sauce
• 4 duck breasts – total weight approximately 500g/1 lb 2 oz
• 6 cloves of garlic, bashed with something weighty, but don’t bother to peel
• 20 juniper berries
• 1 tsp coarse sea salt
• 20g/1 oz packet – ten or so branches of thyme
• 150g/5 oz blackberries (can be frozen)
• 80 ml/⅓ cup Marsala
• 160 ml/⅔ cup beef stock made with one stock cube
• 2 tbsp soft brown sugar
• A couple of knobs of butter.
1. Preheat the oven to 240ºC and put a roasting tin (one you can use on the hob) on the top rack to get good and hot.
2. Dry the duck with kitchen paper and score the skin (taking care not to cut all the way through) diagonally.
3. Crush the salt and the juniper berries together in a pestle and mortar, and rub into the duck skin, pushing it into the slits you’ve just made.
4. Put the breasts skin side down on the pulsatingly hot roasting tin, return to the oven, and cook for five minutes.
5. Turn the oven down to 210ºC, turn the breasts over and baste. Strew the thyme into the roasting tin together with the garlic. Return to the oven for five minutes. Take out, baste. Return to the oven for a further five minutes. Put the breasts onto a warmed plate, cover with foil and leave to rest.
6. Put the roasting tin over a gentle heat on the hob. If there is a lot of fat tip some of it out and use it for making roast potatoes.
7. Add the sugar, butter, Marsala and stock to the roasting tin, and bring it to a robust simmer.
8. Take out the thyme. Squeeze out the garlic from the skin and mix in with the gravy.
9. Add the blackberries, squishing them down slightly to get them to release their juices.
10. Slice the duck diagonally and serve adorned with the blackberry sauce.